COL’s commitment to and advocacy of OER is well known. Open Access (OA) is a paradigm of publication in research similar to what OER is in education. Open Access promotes free and unrestricted sharing of research publications and data similar to the way OER promotes free and unrestricted sharing of learning materials.
OA predates OER. An institution can adapt an OA mandate and make its research publications available freely. An excellent source of information on OA mandates is the ROARMap which shows that as on date, 578 institutions (including university departments) across the globe have adopted an OA mandate. Globally, about 100 funding agencies in research such as the Wellcome Trust, European Research Council, National Research Council Canada, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (India) and National Natural Science Foundation of China have OA mandates.
A typical OA mandate requires an author (an employee or student in a university, for example) to make available a copy of the final version of the peer-reviewed manuscript of a research paper to an online repository maintained by the institution. Such a manuscript may be deposited immediately upon notification of acceptance of the paper by a journal. Some journal publishers ask that a manuscript be made available only after the lapse of a time period. It could be six months from the date of acceptance, for example.
A number of researchers publish their papers in journals from commercial publishers who levy significant charges to any user that wishes to access the paper. The number of Open Access journals where a user is not required to pay any charge for access has increased considerably since the last decade. Currently the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists over 10,000 journals in different disciplines. However, researchers might still prefer to use closed access journals mostly because of peer pressure. Even they can use the OA mandate route to make their manuscripts available to the global public. As per the SHERPA/RoMEO database about 73% of subscription journals allow some form of archiving of publications by researchers and their institutions. This is also popularly known as self-archiving by authors.
Professional staff at COL publish their papers in a number of professional magazines or journals. The author manuscripts or “pre-prints” are always made available in COL’s online repository. Every author on COL’s staff ensures that the copyright of the publication is with COL and is not wholly transferred to the publisher. The copyright is only shared with the publisher and COL reserves the right to deposit a version of preprint in its repository. Using this route, all peer-reviewed publications of COL’s staff are made available to the global public for unrestricted access. COL generally agrees to the request of a publisher to defer the deposit of a preprint if the embargo is sought for a reasonable amount of time (like six months or less since acceptance). COL was the first intergovernmental organization to adopt an OER policy in April 2011. Ever since, every individual agreement with a publisher has been developed in line with that policy.
There may be no separate OA mandate at COL because COL is not a research organization per se, but peer-reviewed publications of staff members are available for global access through an extension of the OER policy and by ensuring that COL always retains the copyright, only sharing it with a publisher for the specific purpose of a particular publication.
COL’s Open Access online repository is accessible at http://OAsis.col.org.