Philanthropic foundations fund the creation of scholarly research, education and training materials, and rich data with the public good in mind. Creative Commons has long advocated for foundations to add open license requirements to their grants. Releasing grant-funded content under permissive open licenses means that materials may be more easily shared and re-used by the public, and combined with other resources that are also published under open licenses.
Yesterday the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it is adopting an open access policy for grant-funded research. The policy “enables the unrestricted access and reuse of all peer-reviewed published research funded, in whole or in part, by the foundation, including any underlying data sets.” Grant funded research and data must be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (CC BY). The policy applies to all foundation program areas and takes effect January 1, 2015.
Here are more details from the Foundation’s Open Access Policy:
- Publications Are Discoverable and Accessible Online. Publications will be deposited in a specified repository(s) with proper tagging of metadata.
- Publication Will Be On “Open Access” Terms. All publications shall be published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Generic License (CC BY 4.0) or an equivalent license. This will permit all users of the publication to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and transform and build upon the material, including for any purpose (including commercial) without further permission or fees being required.
- Foundation Will Pay Necessary Fees. The foundation would pay reasonable fees required by a publisher to effect publication on these terms.
- Publications Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. All publications shall be available immediately upon their publication, without any embargo period. An embargo period is the period during which the publisher will require a subscription or the payment of a fee to gain access to the publication. We are, however, providing a transition period of up to two years from the effective date of the policy (or until January 1, 2017). During the transition period, the foundation will allow publications in journals that provide up to a 12-month embargo period.
- Data Underlying Published Research Results Will Be Accessible and Open Immediately. The foundation will require that data underlying the published research results be immediately accessible and open. This too is subject to the transition period and a 12-month embargo may be applied.
Trevor Mundel, President of Global Health at the foundation, said that Gates “put[s] a high priority not only on the research necessary to deliver the next important drug or vaccine, but also on the collection and sharing of data so other scientists and health experts can benefit from this knowledge.”
Congratulations to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on adopting a default open licensing policy for its grant-funded research. This terrific announcement follows a similar move by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, who recently extended their CC BY licensing policy from the Open Educational Resources grants to now apply foundation-wide for all project-based grant funds.
Regarding deposit and sharing of data, the Gates Foundation might consider permitting grantees to utilize the CC0 Public Domain Dedication, which allows authors to dedicate data to the public domain by waiving all rights to the data worldwide under copyright law. CC0 is widely used to provide barrier-free re-use to data.
We’ve updated the information we’ve been tracking on foundation intellectual property policies to reflect the new agreement from Gates, and continue to urge other philanthropic foundations to adopt open policies for grant-funded research and projects.3 Comments »
Creative Commons received a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to survey the licensing policies of private foundations, and to work toward increasing the free availability of foundation-supported works. We are still pursuing this objective, but here’s where we are at the moment.
Tax-exempt private foundations are non-profit institutions exclusively devoted to benefitting the public, by grant-making or direct activities designed to achieve charitable, scientific, educational or similar purposes. Because there is a limit to the funds available to even the largest private foundations, most try to use their resources in a way that will have the greatest impact on the problems they hope to solve. Thus, they make grants to organizations that have shown themselves to be particularly effective in achieving their social goals.
One avenue to greater impact that has not been followed as often as it could be is requiring, or at least encouraging, grantees to make any grant-funded works freely available for broad uses by others, so that those works can not only be distributed for education and research, but readily improved and built upon to create new works in a potentially unlimited trajectory. Even assuring public access just to read the works is important. To take one example, foundations often fund research that is relevant to the welfare of the world’s poorest people – who often live in countries where their own researchers can’t afford to subscribe to the journals in which the work is published. Making articles on advances in medicine available through the internet can speed the transfer of knowledge to places where it is urgently needed – often by years. Licenses that give people the right to download, print and distribute those articles, and to translate or otherwise adapt them to local needs, multiply the already-great value of simple access.
Increasingly, government agencies and intergovernmental organizations are adopting open policies for copyrightable works and data they create or commission. For example, all grants under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Program require that copyrightable materials produced be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license, so that those materials may be freely used by all, eliminating the need for costly replication of effort as community colleges put together courses to train workers for new jobs. Foundations have typically made the same requirement for works produced under grants to develop open educational resources, but only a few have extended the requirement to grants for other purposes.
We believe that in almost all cases, the copyrightable works produced with grant funding, as well as works concerning the problems the foundation seeks to address that are created by expert staff or commissioned by the foundation from external experts, will have more impact on those problems if they are published under an open license. In speaking with foundations, we have learned that most of them agree with this in principle – and it’s on their list; but limited time and unlimited demands mean that the issue usually doesn’t get to the top of the list.
There are, of course, grants a part of whose purpose is to provide the grantee with a source of income; in some (but not all) such cases, the income can only be realized by selling copies of the grant-funded work rather than by providing ancillary services. Obviously, it would not be rational to insist on the work’s being openly published in those few cases. We believe that it is appropriate and desirable for a foundation to adopt principles that cover the large majority of its grants, not to invite requests for exceptions, but to be prepared to relax its policy when it furthers the grant purpose to do so.
We have accordingly drafted a model intellectual property licensing policy for foundations, covering their own works as well as grant-funded works. The draft has been vetted by a dozen or more foundations, and has changed significantly as a result of their input. The current version includes a set of alternative provisions to fit some of the variations some of the foundations have told us they would prefer. It remains a draft in the sense that any foundation should feel free to edit it to suit its own needs, and we have accordingly dedicated the current version to the public domain so that not even attribution is required. Of course, we’d love to hear from any organization that adopts it in any form, and comments will always be welcome.
Check out the wiki page where we have several pieces of information, including:1 Comment »