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Open Research Advocacy: Funding Organizations Step Up
By ,
Volume 42, Number 4 - July/August 2018

The launch of the new group—the Open Research Funders Group (ORFG;—was announced 2 months later. The group’s founding members consisted of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the AHA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Ivor Benjamin, chair of the AHA Research Committee, explained why the AHA was excited about the new organi zation: “It aligns with the American Heart Association’s stra tegic goals and our core belief that investment in research is maximized through its wide availability to an expanding community of stakeholders and end users. We look forward to learning from peer organizations that have developed and implemented OA and open data policies, and, in turn, to sharing what we have learned from our own experience” ( The Open Research Funders Group has already grown substantially since its founding, adding members including Arcadia, The Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the Wellcome Trust.

Initially, the Open Research Funders Group is focusing on several specific initiatives (

  • Developing practical solutions for monitoring OA and open data policy compliance and tracking impact
  • Pulling together resources that qualitatively and quantitatively underscore how openness accelerates research and discovery
  • Identifying best practices pertaining to policy development and implementation
  • Highlighting workflows that minimize hassles for both grant recipients and grant administrators
  • Sharing all of the above with the range of research stakeholders

In October of 2017, the group held its first in-person meeting, which was attended by representatives from 23 organizations. In this initial get-together, the focus was on education, community engagement, and support for infrastructure as ways to promote the growth of OA publication. It was a small step in the right direction, but one that could lead to real substantive progress.

We’re not directly involved with any of these organizations. But we do work with other organizations which are their grantees—and we’ve worked with organizations trying to implement their own OA and open data policies—so we’re well-acquainted with the challenges faced by all types of organizations working in this space. In many cases, researchers and institutions want to do the right thing; people are supportive of the broad goal of making research more accessible, available, and reusable. But OA policies can be difficult for researchers to navigate or comply with. Here are some suggestions on ways the Open Research Funders Group can promote its goal of getting research into the hands of more people who can benefit from it.

Clarity in OA Policies AND Guidance

One of the best ways funding organizations can make sure the research they fund is made accessible through OA channels is to have a crystal-clear OA policy. The Wellcome Trust, an ORFG member, is often recognized for its thorough, thoughtful policy ( In addition to the policy itself, the Well come Trust has a regularly updated, comprehensive set of guidelines available for authors and publishers about the policy and how to comply ( Along with other strong OA policies, such as that of the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome policy could serve as a starting point for other funding bodies as they develop their own policy statements and guidance for authors and publishers.

Most OA policies include requirements for either depositing the final version of an article into an OA repository or publishing in an OA journal. Even as the repository infrastructure continues to grow, researchers often gravitate toward publishing in an OA journal or in a journal that allows authors to make their articles openly accessible on an article-by-article basis. Many OA journals and journals that allow articles to be openly accessible on a case-by-case basis charge an article processing fee. These fees range tremendously, from $150–200 to several thousand dollars.

The payment of OA publication fees should be part of any OA policy. Ideally, these fees should not come out of the amount granted for research, but instead should be paid out of a sepa rate publication fund maintained by the funding organiza tion. Research funders should be tracking and monitoring this data to better understand what’s changing within the publish ing world and what’s not. Again, the Wellcome Trust has been setting an example for other funders to follow. As noted on its blog, “To help make the costs around OA more transparent, the Wellcome Trust has published details on how much it spent on article processing charges in the year 2013-14” (

By monitoring article processing charges and noting spikes in the data, funders are in a unique position to put pressure on publishers that are raising prices to exorbitant amounts. If ORGF members work together, it might be possible to produce changes in the marketplace that might not happen if each organization acts individually.

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Eric Hinsdale is a knowledge management consultant at FireOak Strategies. 

Abby Clobridge is is founder and consultant, FireOak Strategies, LLC. 


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