Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Policies and Guidelines

Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy

Frequently Asked Questions

About the Policy

  1. What is open access and why is it important?
  2. What is the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy?
  3. How would researchers comply with the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy?
  4. What are the Agencies’ current policies on open access? Why harmonize?
  5. When would the policy come into effect?
  6. To which grants would the Draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy apply?
  7. Are there costs associated with complying with the policy?
  8. Does the draft policy require making data openly accessible?

Making peer-reviewed journal publications openly accessible

  1. Who is responsible for ensuring that a publication is freely accessible online?
  2. How do I know if a journal offers an acceptable open access option?
  3. What is an institutional repository?
  4. How do I retain copyright of my research paper?
  5. I am not familiar with open access. Do you have a list of websites and resources that might be helpful?

About the Policy

1. What is open access and why is it important?

Open access is the practice of providing free and unrestricted online access to the products of research. Greater access to research results is expected to accelerate the progress of research, democratize access to knowledge world-wide, and ensure that publicly funded research is available to the public. Open access makes it possible for the results of research to have the greatest possible impact, enabling researchers from all sectors, scholars, policymakers, and the public to use and build on this knowledge.

2. What is the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy?

In keeping with global trends on open access, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), along with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) (“the Agencies”), have been developing a harmonized policy on open access to peer-reviewed journal publications. Working towards the goal of a more unified approach among the federal granting agencies, the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy (“the draft policy”) was modeled on CIHR’s existing This link will take you to another Web site Open Access Policy.

The objective of the draft policy would be to ensure that peer-reviewed journal publications arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible online within 12 months of publication.

*CIHR funded researchers are not affected by this consultation as CIHR’s Open Access Policy remains unchanged and mandatory.

3. How would researchers comply with the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy?

Adherence with the draft policy would be achieved in one of two ways:

  • Researchers submit their peer-reviewed journal publication to a journal that offers open access to articles on its website, either immediately or within 12 months; or,
  • Researchers submit their peer-reviewed journal publication in a central or institutional repository, where it will be made freely available within 12 months of publication.

It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies.

4. What are the Agencies’ current policies on open access? Why harmonize?

SSHRC has had an open access policy since 2006, deciding to take “an awareness-raising, educational and promotional approach to [the policy’s] implementation, rather than imposing mandatory requirements.” In July 2012, SSHRC signed the This link will take you to another Web site Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities to sustain its promotion of open and, when possible, free access to all research results supported through its programs and initiatives.

CIHR has had an open access policy in place since 2008. The current This link will take you to another Web site Open Access Policy was revised and became mandatory in December 2012.

NSERC has been considering policy options while monitoring Canadian and international funding agency policies and practices. In May 2013, NSERC endorsed the Global Research Council This link will take you to another Web site Action Plan towards Open Access to Publications which aims to raise awareness for, promoting and supporting open access on a global scale and to assess the implementation of actions at national and international levels.

The alignment of policy approaches among the tri-agencies will facilitate research collaboration, provide greater clarity for researchers, improve compliance, and accelerate the transition towards a truly open research literature and scholarly communication system in order to maximize the economic, social, cultural, and health benefits for Canadians.

5. When would the policy come into effect?

Depending on results of the consultations, the Agencies are proposing to have the policy apply to grants awarded after September 1, 2014.

Note that CIHR’s existing This link will take you to another Web site Open Access Policy remains unchanged. Recipients of CIHR grants awarded from January 1, 2008 and onward must be compliant with the CIHR policy.

6. To which grants would the draft Tri-Agency Open Access Policy apply?

Implementation details of the draft policy will depend on feedback gathered during the consultation process. However, it is proposed that for an initial period, open access requirements would apply only to research projects and grants, not to training and salary awards.

7. Are there costs associated with complying with the policy?

Moving towards greater open access will require ongoing close collaboration amongst many stakeholders. The Agencies recognize that financial and other implications may vary by discipline, and new business models for institutions, libraries, publishers, and scholarly and professional societies may emerge. Cooperative approaches can help mitigate the risks for all stakeholders in transitioning to open access models.

Many journals allow authors to deposit their peer-reviewed journal publication within an institutional or disciplinary repository within 12 months of publication without cost to the researcher. The existing Canadian network of institutional repositories has an important role to play in preserving and making accessible the knowledge generated by academic institutions. Please visit the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Association of Research Libraries: Institutional Repositories Online Resource Portal for more information.

Costs associated with publishing in online open access journals are considered by the Tri-agencies to be eligible grant expenses, outlined in the section titled Use of Grant Funds of the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide under "Dissemination of Research Results".

8. Does the draft policy require making data openly accessible?

This link will take you to another Web site CIHR’s Open Access Policy requires grant recipients to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database, as already required by most journals, immediately upon publication of research results.

For NSERC and SSHRC grant recipients, the draft policy does not include any requirements for data retention or archiving. However, SSHRC has a This link will take you to another Web site Research Data Archiving Policy to facilitate making data that has been collected with the help of SSHRC funds available to other researchers.

The Agencies are currently reviewing trends and policies of other funding agencies and closely monitoring the numerous conversations about research data management happening in Canada and globally.

Making peer-reviewed journal publications openly accessible

9. Who is responsible for ensuring that a publication is freely accessible online?

The Principal Investigator for the grant would be responsible for ensuring adherence with the harmonized policy.

10. How do I know if a journal offers an acceptable open access option?

The This link will take you to another Web site SHERPA/RoMEO database is a useful resource for locating publishers’ copyright and editorial policies. However, it is recommended that grant recipients verify journal copyright policies by contacting the editorial staff directly to verify whether they have permission to archive the post-print within 12 months after the publication date in order to abide with a funder’s policy.

There are also more than 9,000 open access scientific and scholarly journals, which publish articles that are freely available for users throughout the world. For more information, consult the This link will take you to another Web site Directory of Open Access Journals.

11. What is an institutional repository?

An institutional repository is a digital collection of a university's intellectual output. Institutional repositories centralize, preserve, and make accessible the knowledge generated by academic institutions.

For more information, consult the This link will take you to another Web site Directory of Open Access Repositories. Publications can also be archived in a disciplinary repository, in Canada or elsewhere. For repositories in Canada please consult the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

Health related publications can be published within This link will take you to another Web site PubMed Central Canada.

12. How do I retain copyright of my research paper?

The draft harmonized policy suggests that grant recipients can either publish in journals that enable open access or in journals that permit authors to archive their peer-reviewed journal publication in an open access repository.

Where necessary, the Agencies would encourage authors to retain key rights through the use of a publication addendum (e.g. CARL/SPARC Canadian Author Addendum) or by inserting text into the publishing agreement, for example:

"Journal acknowledges that the researcher will be entitled to archive an electronic copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript for inclusion in (name of repository). Manuscripts archived with (name of repository) may be made freely available to the public, via the internet, within twelve months of the official date of final publication in the journal."

The Agencies encourage authors to use one of these two options to retain the right to archive peer-reviewed journal publication in an openly accessible digital repository.

13. I am not familiar with open access. Do you have a list of Web sites and resources that might be helpful?

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