Australian Research Council moving backward on open-access, too

A few months ago when the 2012 Australian Research Council Discovery Project funding rules came out, I was excited to see them putting money into open access publication:

Publication and dissemination of Project outputs and outreach activity costs
may be supported at up to two (2) per cent of total ARC funding awarded to
the Project. The ARC strongly encourages publication in publicly accessible
outlets and the depositing of data and any publications arising from a
Project in an appropriate subject and/or institutional repository.

But you always have to read the fine print. When preparing my grant application, I discovered that one is not allowed to include publication costs as an item in the budget. We can only use the money that we have budgeted for other things, like lab equipment and personnel salaries. Given that the ARC only awards, on average, something like 60% of the money requested, few of us will have any to spare.

Another mistake I made was failing to compare the text to that of previous years. It turns out the ARC dropped a former requirement that researchers either deposit their data in a publicly available repository or explain why they are not doing so, and specifically identify which publications and data they have put in a repository. That was in there in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011: The ARC therefore encourages researchers to consider the benefits of depositing
their data and any publications arising from a research project in an appropriate
subject and/or institutional repository wherever such a repository is available to the
researcher(s). If a researcher is not intending to deposit the data from a project in a
repository within a six-month period, he/she should include the reasons in the
project’s Final Report. Any research outputs that have been or will be deposited in
appropriate repositories should be identified in the Final Report.

Why did the ARC move backwards on this? Maybe they got sick of reading Final Reports in which researchers ignored this requirement or made lame excuses for why they weren’t following it. But dropping it wasn’t the appropriate response. They should have done what the NIH did in a similar situation. When NIH-funded researchers weren’t doing the recommended thing of making their publications open access (4% compliance), the NIH upgraded their recommendations into a mandate. And now the majority of NIH-funded research publications are publicly available.

Do the right thing, ARC. The Australian taxpayer is paying for it, the Australian taxpayer ought to be able to read it.

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