Gates Foundation Makes Bold Push Toward Open-Access Research

In a move that could change the nature of academic research, the Gates Foundation will require the researchers it funds to publish their findings in easily accessible places.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has jumped into the open-access movement by requiring the researchers it supports to publish their work only in publicly accessible spaces.

“All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period,” the foundation announced this week.

Founded by former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, the international organization funds research on several social and public-policy issues, including global health, education, and international development.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committed to information sharing and transparency,” the foundation stated in the announcement. “We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated.”

The new open-access rules will be effective for all new research agreements starting in January 2015, with embargoes of up to one year allowed during a transition period that ends in January 2017.

The multibillion-dollar foundation, which publishes thousands of articles yearly, said it will work with its partners in the publishing industry to make the initiative work.

“It’s the first time a funder has explicitly set a policy that will secure free, immediate access—along with full reuse rights—for all articles reporting its funded research,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, according to a report in Inside Higher Ed.

The foundation’s move comes nearly two years after the suicide of programmer and hacktivist Aaron Swartz, known for allegedly breaking into an MIT facility and downloading thousands of documents from the JSTOR digital academic library, for which he was prosecuted by the federal government. Swartz essentially became the face of the open-access movement.

The Gates Foundation isn’t the only one trying to open up access to published research. As the movement for accessible research online grows, several organizations have pledged their support, including a few associations in the field.

The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association includes among its membership some notable universities, publishers, and research facilities. The association bills itself as an “international community” with a mission of “exchanging information, advancing models, advocacy, education, and the promotion of innovation.”

The Directory of Open Access Journals, meanwhile, is looking far into the future, with a goal of becoming the “one-stop shop for users of open-access journals.”

Bill and Melinda Gates, key benefactors of the Gates Foundation. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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