Frequently Asked Questions

 Questions

 Questions and Answers

  1. What is open access and why is it important?

    Open access is the practice of providing free and unrestricted online access to research publications and data. This greater access is expected to accelerate the progress of research, democratize access to knowledge worldwide, and ensure that publicly funded research is available to the public. Open access makes it possible for research results to have a greater impact and enables researchers, scholars, clinicians, policymakers, private sectors and not-for-profit organizations and the public to use and build upon this knowledge. Moving toward open access is a way to increase transparency, accountability and efficiency.

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  2. What is the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications?

    In keeping with the global movement towards open access, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), (“the Agencies”), have developed a harmonized policy on open access, applicable to research results. The unified approach of the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications was modeled on CIHR’s Open Access Policy. The objective of the policy is to ensure that results arising from Agency-supported research are freely accessible online within 12 months of publication.

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  3. Has CIHR changed its Open Access Policy?

    While CIHR-funded researchers will now refer to the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, requirements for CIHR-supported researchers remain unchanged and mandatory. As of January 1, 2013, researchers who are awarded funding from CIHR since January 2008 are required to adhere to the following requirements:

    • ensure that all research papers generated from CIHR funded projects are freely accessible through the Publisher's website or an online repository within 12 months of publication;
    • deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database (e.g. gene sequences deposited in GenBank) immediately upon publication of research results;
    • retain original data sets for a minimum of five years (or longer if other policies apply); and,
    • acknowledge CIHR support by quoting the funding reference number in journal publications.

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  4. Why harmonize the Agencies’ current policies on open access?

    The harmonized Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications provides greater clarity for researchers, facilitates research collaboration, enables cooperative approaches to implementation, and will help accelerate the transition towards a truly open research literature and scholarly communication system, in order to maximize the economic, social, cultural, and health benefits for Canadians.

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  5. What are the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications requirements?

    The Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications requires that peer-reviewed journal publications resulting from Tri-Agency (NSERC, SSHRC or CIHR) grants be freely accessible online within 12 months of publication.

    Grant recipients may comply with the policy through one of the following routes:

    1. Grant recipients archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscript in an online repository where it will be freely accessible within 12 months (e.g., institutional repository or discipline-based repository). It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies.
    2. Grant recipients can publish in a journal that offers open access or that offers open access on its website within 12 months.

    NOTE: The two routes are not mutually exclusive. Researchers are strongly encouraged to deposit a copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript into an accessible online repository immediately upon publication, even if the article is freely available through the journal’s website.

    CIHR-funded recipients are encouraged to consult the additional data requirements outlined in Section 3.2 of the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.

    Grant recipients must acknowledge Agency contributions in all peer-reviewed publications, quoting the funding reference number (e.g., FRN, Application ID).

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  6. What is the Funding Reference Number (FRN, Appl ID)?

    The Funding Reference Number (FRN – CIHR) or Application ID (Appl ID – NSERC and SSHRC) is a number that identifies a unique research grant. You can find this number in the Agency letter that acknowledges your successful grant application.

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  7. Which grants does the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy to Publications apply to?

    The Agencies encourage all researchers and trainees to adopt the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications as a best practice and to increase the dissemination of research findings. 

    At this time, the open access requirements apply to any grant program (i.e. research projects) and not to training and salary awards. The Agencies recognize that training and salary awards are not designed to fund research projects or dissemination activities and therefore do not currently require the recipients of these awards to adhere with the open access requirements.

    CIHR: Updates to the policy took effect on January 1, 2013 and apply to all active CIHR grants awarded after January 1, 2008.

    NSERC and SSHRC: The policy applies to all grants awarded May 1, 2015 and onwards.

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  8. Who is responsible for ensuring that a publication is freely accessible online?

    The grant recipient is responsible for ensuring adherence with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.

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  9. How does this policy apply to graduate students and post-doctoral fellows?

    Individuals in receipt of graduate scholarships and fellowships are not required to adhere to the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, although the Agencies encourage open access to all research publications.

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  10. Where can I archive my publications?

    Publications can be archived in Canadian institutional (e.g., university) repositories or in discipline-based repositories, in Canada or elsewhere, that are open access. For repositories in Canada please consult the Canadian Association of Research Libraries Institutional Repository Project: Online Resource Portal. Several university libraries welcome articles from researchers whose home institutions do not have an institutional repository. 

    CIHR encourages authors to deposit their publications into PMC Canada (PubMed Central Canada) (for more information on PMC Canada see Q 26), a stable and permanent online digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed research publications in health and life sciences. PMC Canada builds on PubMed Central (PMC), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature and is a member of the broader PMC International (PMCI) network of e-repositories.

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  11. Where can I archive my French-language research papers?

    Agency-supported researchers seeking to archive French-language research papers may wish to consider their institutional repository.

    CIHR-funded researchers can archive French-language research papers through PMC Canada (PubMed Central Canada).  Some journals that deposit content into PMC Canada, such as the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), publish articles in French and English. In this case, only the English material appears in PMC’s primary presentation of an article – the HTML full-text display. However, the journal’s PDF version of the article, which is also available on PMC Canada, may contain material in French as well as in English.

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  12. What is an institutional repository?

    An institutional repository (IR) is a digital collection of an organization’s intellectual output. Institutional repositories centralize, preserve, and make accessible the knowledge generated by academic institutions. Please visit the Canadian Association of Research Libraries Institutional Repository Project: Online Resource Portal for more information.

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  13. What if my institution does not have an institutional repository?

    Several university libraries welcome articles from researchers whose home institutions do not maintain repositories. Some of these libraries provide this service only to researchers within their province or region, while other libraries provide this service to any researcher in Canada. For more information on “adoptive” repositories please visit the following link.

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  14. If I deposit my paper in a repository, what version of my paper must be archived?

    Under the “Online Repository” option, the author(s) must archive the final full-text peer-reviewed manuscript (the post-print) or the published version where allowable. The final full-text peer-reviewed manuscript must include all tables, figures, images and appendices. This version generally does not include the formatting or pagination that is included in the version published in the journal (the version of record). A publisher’s policy on self-archiving may be found by consulting the journal’s website or by contacting its editorial staff.

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  15. Can I archive the published version (i.e. the version of record)?

    Yes. The Agencies prefer archiving the published version of a paper (the version of record). Please verify with the publisher that this complies with their copyright policies.

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  16. How do I know if a journal is open access?

    The SHERPA/RoMEO database is a useful resource for locating publishers’ copyright and editorial policies. However, it is recommended that grant recipients verify journal copyright policies by contacting the editorial staff directly to verify whether they have permission to archive the post-print within 12 months of publication in order to comply with a funder’s policy. There are more than 9,000 open access scientific and scholarly journals, which publish articles that are freely available. For more information, consult the Directory of Open Access Journals. (Note: Information provided through these websites is correct to the best of their knowledge but is not legally binding.)

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  17. Are there costs associated with complying with the policy? If there are costs, who pays?

    Many journals allow authors to deposit their peer-reviewed journal publication in an institutional or disciplinary repository within 12 months of publication without cost to the researcher. The existing Canadian network of institutional repositories has an important role to play in preserving and making accessible the knowledge generated by academic institutions. Please visit the Canadian Association of Research Libraries: Institutional Repositories Online Resource Portal for more information.

    Some journals may require researchers to pay article processing charges (APCs) to make articles freely available. Costs associated with open access publishing are considered by the Agencies to be eligible grant expenses, outlined in the section titled “Use of Grant Funds” of the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide under "Dissemination of Research Results".

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  18. Can I simply make my papers freely available on my website?

    A primary goal of the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications is to make publically funded research available to as many people as possible. Although making articles available on a personal website is permissible, the Agencies require that a copy also be made available through an online repository or journal within 12 months to reach a broad audience more effectively and to ensure long-term accessibility.

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  19. Does the policy apply to articles written prior to May 1, 2015?

    The Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications applies to all NSERC and SSHRC funded grants awarded May 1, 2015 and onwards. Only publications resulting from grants awarded after this date are affected by the new policy. Nevertheless, the Agencies encourage all researchers to make their research publications openly accessible. CIHR’s existing Open Access Policy mandates open access compliance for research funded in whole or in part by CIHR after January 1, 2008.

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  20. Does the policy apply to co-authored papers, or research that has multiple funding sources?

    If an Agency grant provides funding for all or part of the research in question, resulting publications must comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.

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  21. When do I archive my peer reviewed manuscript?

    All Agency funded grant recipients (NSERC and SSHRC: awarded May 1, 2015 and onwards) are required to make journal publications freely accessible within 12 months of publication. Where allowable, the Agencies strongly encourage grant recipients to archive the final peer-reviewed full text (post print) manuscript immediately upon publication. The Agencies recommend that grant recipients refer to the journal’s copyright and self-archiving policies and/or speak directly with the journal's editorial staff to verify whether they have permission to archive the post-print within 12 months of publication in order to abide with a funder’s policy.

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  22. What if my journal of choice does not permit archiving of manuscripts within 12 months?

    The Agencies respect the authors' right to choose the appropriate journal to publish their research findings and we encourage authors to make an effort to retain key rights (e.g., archiving manuscripts). However, to adhere with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, grant recipients can either publish in journals that enable open access or in journals that permit authors to archive their peer-reviewed manuscript in an open access repository within 12 months of publication.

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  23. How do I retain copyright of my research paper?

    It is the responsibility of the grant recipient to determine which publishers allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. For journals that do not allow archiving of peer-reviewed manuscripts, the Agencies encourage authors to retain key rights through the use of a publication addendum (e.g. CARL/SPARC Canadian Author Addendum) or by inserting text into the publishing agreement, for example:

    [Journal] acknowledges that the researcher will be entitled to archive an electronic copy of the final, peer-reviewed manuscript for inclusion in (name of repository). Manuscripts archived with (name of repository) may be made freely available to the public, via the internet, within twelve months of the official date of final publication in the journal.

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  24. How will the Agencies ensure compliance with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications?

    Many researchers are already adhering to this policy given the growing number of high-impact open access journals combined with the fact that a large number of journals make their content freely available after a 12 month embargo. Grant recipients are reminded that by accepting Agency funds they have agreed to the terms and conditions of the grant as set out in the Agency's policies and guidelines (CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC). In the event of an alleged breach of Agency policy, the process outlined in Section 6.1 of the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research may be followed.

    CIHR has integrated its policy into the Research Reporting System (RRS). The RRS is intended to systematically collect, synthesize and report on research results following the end of the grant. Through this process researchers are being asked to provide the URL (uniform resource locator) or DOI (digital object identifier) linking to the full-text publication as well as reasons why publications are not open access. CIHR may also cross reference the unique funding reference number (See Q. 6) with MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database.

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  25. Does data have to be openly accessible or archived under this new policy?

    CIHR grant holder requirements remain unchanged and are required to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database, as already required by most journals, immediately upon publication of research results.

    NSERC and SSHRC grant recipients are not required to make their data openly accessible or archived at this time. Note: SSHRC has a Research Data Archiving Policy to facilitate making data that has been collected with the support of SSHRC funds available to other researchers. The Agencies are currently reviewing trends and policies of other funding agencies and closely monitoring the numerous conversations about research data management happening in Canada and globally.

    The Agencies encourage researchers and trainees to make their research data available as a best practice and to increase the dissemination of research findings. 

    a)      What are some examples of data that CIHR-supported researchers must deposit into public databases?

    Examples of data that should be deposited into public databases includes: genomic data, DNA sequences, protein structures, protein sequences, protein interaction data, nucleic acid structures, nucleic acid behaviors, factors and motifs, plasmids, atomic coordinates, and molecular interaction data. A sample of public databases and archives, including their web sites, is provided in the Annex accompanying the policy.

    b)     What are some types of data that CIHR-supported researchers do not have to be archived?

    Research data sets that do not have to be archived include: personal or sensitive data, administrative, clinical, and longitudinal data. Data that can be archived is biomedical data that is typically archived in a public database.

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  26. What is PMC Canada (PubMed Central Canada)?

    PMC Canada is a national web-based repository of health sciences literature. CIHR has partnered with the National Research Council’s National Science Library in the creation of PMC Canada to develop a stable, permanent, and freely accessible digital archive of the full text of peer-reviewed research publications arising from research funded by CIHR.

    PMC Canada is a part of the PubMed Central International network - a starting point for exploring Canadian health research. This network allows national versions of PMC to share content; the vast majority of US PMC and Europe PubMed Central content will therefore also be available through PMC Canada.

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  27. What is PubMed Central?

    PubMed Central (PMC) is the NIH digital repository of full-text, peer-reviewed biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research journals. It is a publicly-accessible, stable, permanent, and searchable electronic archive. PubMed Central was developed and is operated by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Library of Medicine at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. More information can be found on PubMed Central's website.

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  28. What types of research papers does PMC Canada accept?

    PMC Canada accepts only peer reviewed journal publications from the biomedical and life sciences fields. PubMed Central's homepage contains links to a Quick Guide that provides detailed information on submitting manuscripts. There is also a Frequently Asked Questions section on PMC Canada's website that may contain useful information for grant recipients.

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  29. I understand that some journals already deposit research papers in PMC Canada. Do I still need to deposit my peer-reviewed manuscript?

    It is true that many publishers voluntarily deposit journal content into PMC Canada (PubMed Central Canada). Please refer to the PMC Journal list to see if your journal of choice deposits content into PMC. If you see "Immediate" or "12 months or less" next to your journal then you do not need to deposit your manuscript.

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  30. Can research papers that have been written in French be deposited into PMC Canada?

    At this time, PMC Canada  contains primarily English content; but some articles are written in French. PMC Canada hopes to have many more French-language articles in the future.

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  31. Who can I contact for more information?

    For further information, please contact:

    NSERC: openaccess@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

    CIHR: access@cihr-irsc.gc.ca

    SSHRC: openaccess@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

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  32. Where can I find more open access resources?

    Various resources to assist researchers in complying with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications can be found in the Toolbox.

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