Access to Research Outputs Policy Advisory Committee Meeting - January 24, 2007

Location

CIHR Office, 160 Elgin Street, 9th floor, Room 08-321
Ottawa, Ontario
12:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Minutes


Participants

Chair:
Dr. Jim Till Ontario Cancer Institute
Members:
Michel G. Bergeron Université Laval
Charlyn Black University of British Columbia
Geoffrey Hicks University of Manitoba
Barbara Neis

Memorial University of Newfoundland (by teleconference)

Francis Ouellette University of British Columbia
Louise Potvin Université de Montréal (by teleconference)
Jeanette Ward University of Ottawa
Regrets:
Michael Rudnicki Ottawa Health Research Institute
CIHR:
Alan Bernstein

President

Ian Graham Vice-President, Knowledge Translation
Kelly VanKoughnet Director, Research Planning and Resourcing
Geoffrey Hynes Policy Advisor, Corporate Planning and Policy
Andrew McColgan Policy Advisor, Corporate Planning and Policy

Welcome and Introductions

J. Till called the meeting to order at 12:15 pm. He welcomed participants and initiated a round of introductions. He invited Dr. Bernstein to make some introductory remarks.

Dr. Bernstein expressed his appreciation to Committee members for their commitment and for the work that has been done so far to develop a draft policy. He commented on the challenge of developing a common policy for the different research outputs - publications, materials and data - and for the diverse research community that CIHR serves. He expressed his support for the idea of establishing a broad policy that would apply to all CIHR funded research with specific elements that could be phased in over time.

Overview of Policy Development Process

G. Hynes delivered a slide presentation which provided an overview of the policy development process to date. It included a brief background of the policy scope, as well as, a summary of comments submitted during the public consultation that CIHR held on the draft policy in October-November 2006.

Aboriginal Health Research Guidelines

Dr. Burliegh Trevor-Deutsch, CIHR Director of Ethics, was invited to deliver a presentation on the CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples as related to sharing of outputs arising from research involving aboriginal communities. Many respondents to the consultation expressed concern over the ethical conduct of research involving Aboriginal peoples, in particular, confidentiality, ownership and sharing of materials and data. There was consensus that CIHR's policy on access to research outputs reference the CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal Peoples. The guidelines, which are still in draft form, were developed through extensive consultation with researchers and aboriginal communities. Dr. Trevor-Deutsch identified many of the potential challenges related to the sharing of outputs arising from research involving aboriginal communities. Of relevance to this policy was the understanding that getting consent in Aboriginal research is a two stage approach, starting with the community and then the individual. Participants were informed that materials and data derived from studies involving Aboriginal Peoples are co-owned with the community and that knowledge sharing can easily occur as long as the community is fully aware of the research plans. Participants recommended that CIHR consult with senior researchers who have the necessary experience to reflect on these issues. Participants thanked Dr. Trevor-Deutsch for his enlightening presentation.

Review of Input from the Consultation and Discussion of Key Issues

1. General Comments

Participants discussed the idea of introducing the policy with an explanation of the philosophy or key principles behind this initiative. This kind of introduction would provide a solid policy framework in which to develop specific aspects. It was suggested that we highlight the fact that CIHR would be taking a step-by-step approach to implementing the policy.

The Committee suggested that CIHR clearly define the terms used in the policy, such as "material", "sharing" and "intellectual property", because terms such as these can have different meanings in different fields.

Participants discussed the idea of creating separate policies for publications, materials and data. In the end, it was generally felt that it would be most effective to move forward with a single policy and that certain parts could be implemented before others. For example, it was suggested that CIHR could move forward almost immediately with the parts of the policy dealing with publications. In contrast, participants acknowledged the challenges related to providing access to research data, and suggested that data is an area where further work would be needed.

2. Policy Framework - Consideration of the European Policy on Open Access Publications

Participants reviewed the European Research Advisory Board's "European policy on open access publications" as a possible framework for CIHR's policy. It was noted that this policy is regarded as a best practice in Europe.

Participants reviewed the principles in the section applying to funding bodies and recommended the following changes:

  • Re-phrase principle # 1 in positive language: "The publication policy should support (or promote) the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they feel is appropriate." instead of "The publication policy should not compromise the freedom…"

  • For principle # 2 replace "The effect of the policy should be to increase the visibility of and improve access to the research funded…" with "The effect of the policy should be to improve access to and enhance the dissemination of research funded…"

  • For principle # 4 change "EURAB recommends that the Commission should consider mandating all researchers funded under FP7 to lodge their publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible within 6 months at the latest" to "…publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible no more than 6 months later."

The Committee supported the use of the European policy as a framework for the CIHR policy, taking into consideration the wording changes above.

3. Peer Reviewed Publications

Participants supported maintaining the proposed maximum six month embargo. It was noted that Nature and Science - two of the highest impacts journals in the scientific world - permit authors to archive their manuscripts with a delay on public access of six months.

It was noted that some journals do not have copyright policies or have policies that would not enable researchers to comply with the proposed CIHR policy (for instance, the journal may not allow archiving, or they may allow archiving, but with public access set after a period of one year or two years - much longer than the proposed six months.). Some members expressed concern over the potential impact of the policy on small Canadian journals.

To address these situations, it was suggested that CIHR could encourage researchers to publish preferentially in journals that allow open access (or that meet CIHR's policy), and at the same, CIHR could work with publishers to bring them in line with the policy.

Sherpa Romeo is an online database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies. It was suggested that CIHR researchers could use this database to identify the policies of the journals in which they are considering publishing. However, many Canadian journals are not listed in this database. As such, participants recommended that CIHR compile a list of journals with their corresponding impact factor and copyright policy in order that CIHR-funded researchers have easy access to this publishing information.

4. Research Data

Participants discussed the question of access to research data. It was observed that sharing data is common practice in the biomedical community and that standards and public databases have been established to enable sharing (e.g., Genbank for DNA sequences). In addition, it was noted that many journals require that biomedical data be deposited in appropriate databases as a condition of publication. The case is much different in clinical research and in health services and population health research, where quite often the researchers are secondary users of the data, or where confidentiality and privacy issues making sharing data difficult or impossible. In addition, standard practices and public databases have not been developed in these research areas. It was agreed that, for the time being, the policy should focus on data that is generated by the researcher themselves and data that is already commonly shared and made available in public databases. For areas such as clinical research, it was noted that more work is needed so that researchers have clear guidelines for consent processes so that they can make data sets available to others.

It was recommended that CIHR convene a separate committee or working group to examine the issue of data sharing in the areas of clinical research, health services and population health. A number of members expressed interest in being involved in this work.

5. Research Materials

Participants supported the proposed requirements for access to research materials. Although it was noted that policy should be consistent with existing policies on intellectual property. It was remarked that, in the case of materials, the policy would be more or less articulating what has become standard practice in the research community. Some participants felt that the policy section on research materials would clearly benefit if a definition of what CIHR considers a research tool or material, as well as what is not. Participants also stated that the expectation to share materials must be reasonable and that it should be clear that onerous requests should be discouraged.

6. Research Access Plan/End-of-Grant Reporting

Participants discussed the proposal to require researchers to submit a research access plan with their applications. It was noted that CIHR should carefully consider what information is needed and how it would be used for before asking researchers for more information. It was also mentioned that researchers often do not know what the outputs will be at the start of the grant. As another approach it was suggested that CIHR introduce some mechanism in the application process that demonstrates that applicants understand their obligations in relation to sharing research outputs, and then monitor the policy through the end-of-grant reporting system that is currently being developed. For example, applicants could be asked to click "yes" in a box in the application form to indicate that they are aware of the requirements of the access policy. Participants generally agreed that the end-of-grant reporting system would be the best option to begin to foster the development and evaluation of output plans, to monitor compliance and to gather information about research outputs. CIHR should look towards the Australian Research Council as well as the Australian National Medical Research Council for guidance. These funders are requiring that grant recipients provide explanations why research outputs have not been shared or archived in repositories.

7. Policy Review

Participants recommended that an annual review process be built into the policy that would provide the opportunity to make changes or additions to the policy based on experience and new developments.

Adjournment

The meeting adjourned at 4:50 p.m.