Interpellation concerning Open Access: the Federal Council backs the SNSF's policy


Das Foto zeigt eine Fotomontage mit einem iPad und darin versinkenden Büchern. © Fotolia

In its response to Councillor of States Géraldine Savary’s interpellation "Open Access: a threat to publishers?" the Federal Council supports the new publication funding and OA policy of the SNSF in its principles.

In its response to the interpellation, the Federal Council points to developments at international and European level and encourages researchers in the humanities to make use of the advantages offered by Open Access (OA) in order to make their findings more visible and accessible.

As part of the SNSF's service level agreement, the federal government has mandated it to take steps to make scientific publications accessible worldwide and free of charge with as little delay as possible. The new funding model for book publications is one of the means adopted by the SNSF to facilitate the dissemination of publicly funded research. In providing funding for digital books, the SNSF is also implementing a recommendation made by the Science Europe Scientific Committee for the Humanities, which says that researchers should be given assistance with OA book publication so that both the humanities and general public can benefit from the new access opportunities ("Open Access Opportunities for the Humanities", November 2013). The SNSF has also actively contributed to the Position Statement "Principles for the Transition to Open Access to Research Publications" issued by the umbrella organisation Science Europe.

Funding research in the humanities

Researchers in the humanities, in particular, favour books as a way of publishing their results. Until now, the SNSF has supported scientific books only by making a subsidiary contribution towards the cost of printing them, the aim being to reduce the selling price and thus improve access to research in the humanities. In future, the SNSF will make a substantial contribution to the cost of producing books (typesetting, layout, proof reading, digitisation). However, this support will be contingent on the author making a digital version of the book available free of charge no later than 24 months after the date of its first publication. This will accelerate open access and the dissemination of research in the humanities worldwide.

Integrating these costs into the research grant will simplify matters considerably. Academics will no longer have to apply for this funding separately, and their manuscripts will no longer have to undergo an additional evaluation procedure. Projects which the SNSF considers to be of high scientific quality at the planning stage tend to generate high-quality output, experience has shown. By dispensing with the requirement to evaluate book manuscripts for these integrated grants, the SNSF is extending a great deal of trust, from which the humanities, in particular, stand to benefit.

Academic freedom not under threat

The SNSF is essentially obliging researchers who obtain SNSF funding to publish on an OA basis. In its OA rules it draws a distinction between publications resulting either wholly or in part from a project financed by the SNSF and publications whose production it has explicitly co-financed.

The new OA requirements for monographs and editions do not restrict the researcher's freedom to choose a publisher. Grantees may choose the publishing house that best suits their needs. If the choice of publisher creates legal obstacles with regard to OA publication, the SNSF must be informed. The conditions are more strict for books which the SNSF co-finances. In this case release from the OA commitment must be requested.

Researchers and publishing houses may also produce a paper version of a book using the pre-press material financed by the SNSF and sell it during and beyond the 24-month period. The publisher’s services are funded separately from the production costs up to the maximum amounts. By adopting this approach, the SNSF is continuing to provide major support for the production and distribution of scientific books.

Humanities and Social Sciences Division
Regula Graf