Open Access in the CGIAR

Victoria Henson-Apollonio circulated a link to Richard Poynder’s blog post, “A letter to CGIAR in support of Open Access”

Poynder, a prolific journalist with a special interest in Open Access, reports that:

Indian Open Access (OA) advocate Professor Subbiah Arunachalam (Arun) organized a letter to the top management of CGIAR . The letter spoke of the need for, and advantages of, making all of CGIAR’s research output Open Access.

Poynder interviews Arun, who makes a number of astute and relevant observations about the origins and the mandate of the CGIAR and similar organizations.  Arun observes that:

Unfortunately, research findings of CGIAR laboratories often end up as articles in refereed professional journals, most of which are behind toll access. I thought it needed to be corrected.

In the belief that research conducted by public organizations should be easily accessible, Arun has written similar letters to other organizations which have a development mandate.

CAS-IP lawyer Francesca Re Manning posted a comment on Poynder’s blog in response to this interview:

I completely agree with Professor Arunachalam. Research outputs should be made as widely accessible as possible; this is one of the ways the CGIAR can fulfill its mission. CAS-IP, the legal unit to the CGIAR, is assisting other centers in going “open”, advising on open access strategies and copyright. That is why Bioversity, CIMMYT, and ICARDA are following ICRISAT’s example, adopting an open access policy and consistently use of Creative Commons as well as OpenData Commons for their data exchanges. We are really pleased to be involved in this process which will ultimately benefit research in the agricultural sector in developing countries.

Enrica Porcari, Chief Information Officer of the CGIAR and Leader of the CGIAR’s ICT-KM Program, posted a reponse to the letter sent by Subbiah Arunachalam to the CGIAR leadership.  In her response she outlines some of the OA policies underway at various centres within the CGIAR.  She says:

“Open access” policies can often be easily applied to products that stay in our hands, but the situation becomes more complex when it comes to articles published by third parties.

And this is of course true also of works co-written with third parties.  Enrica concludes by saying:

Rather than a policy on “open access” limited to journal articles, I would instead prefer to see us develop a strong and clear CGIAR view and set of practices that balance the need for high quality science with highly accessible outputs, and reinforces the substantial progress we have already made across all the Centers…I would advocate for a concerted effort to “opening access to our research”

The debate is continuing in the comments section of the original blog post.  Read more about the ICT-KM ‘Triple A Framework ‘ that Enrica references in her post.

Last year, Poynder featured CAS-IP in a post entitled “Intellectual Property, Open Access, and the Developing World“.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP and Kay Chapman

4 responses to “Open Access in the CGIAR

  1. Subbiah Arunachalam

    Dear Dr Bloch:
    Thanks for sparing some time to join this discussion. Enrica makes the point “Open access policies can often be easily applied to products that stay in our hands, but the situation becomes more complex when it comes to articles published by third parties.” This has been tackled by NIH, the seven Research Councils of the UK, the Wellcome Trust and others. Indeed, many publishers are now willing to deposit the papers they publish in their journals in PubMed Central on behalf of the authors! Within the CGIAR system, ICRISAT and CIAT, I believe, have also dealt with this issue. Regarding papers co-written with authors from non-CGIAR laboratories, CGIAR can clearly stipulate that as a public good organization it is their policy to make all papers OA. For example, even in projects where NIH funding is minimal and much of the funds come from elsewhere, NIH OA mandate is supreme. Besides, I don’t think any collaborator who is ready to work with CGIAR centres will ever object to making publicly-funded research freely available to all.

    Enabling Open Access, of which Dr William Dar is a board member, OASIS and SPARC will be happy to clear any doubts Enrica and other CGIAR info and knowledge managers may have on this question.

    Let CGIR information and knowledge managers develop a far more comprehensive policy to make CGIAR research truly open and freely accessible and usable. Everyone will welcome it. All we, the signatories to the letter, are saying is that an OA mandate and setting up OA repositories are the starting point. Enrica’s proposed overarching policy CANNOT exclude open access to research publications.

    As Anriette Esterhuysen of APC put it, “I cannot believe that CGIAR has not already opted for
    OA as the default option”.

  2. Subbiah Arunachalam


    The New York Times of 28 May 2010 (page A 23) carries an op-ed contribution by Daniel N Baker, Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, and Director, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder.

    Entitled “The Earth’s Secrets, Hidden in the Skies”, the article suggests “Allowing the public access to the environmental data gathered by U.S. military satellites would have many benefits.” Yes, Prof. Baker is talking about throwing open data collected by military satellites. He goes on to state, “Making the data more available would be remarkably simple. The Departments of Energy and Defense, which operate the satellites’ detection functions, should apply the same standards used for G.P.S.: All but the most sensitive data is disseminated automatically, so that anyone in the world can tap into the flow of information beaming down from the satellites.” As simple as making “the data is disseminated automatically.” In the case of CGIAR it should be even more simple, as no military sensitivities are involved. On the contrary the very purpose of CGIAR is to help the poor. All that CGIAR has to do is just to mandate open access. But for a few of the CGIAR centres the others have delayed it for too long. They should go ahead and do it now.
    “Making the data truly public would allow full peer review of their findings, leading to higher-quality research,” says Prof. Baker. How very true! I am sure all of us want to improve the quality of CGIAR research.

    Prof. Baker concludes his reasoned argument thus: “Much as America’s scientific leadership and policy of open inquiry did wonders for its prestige during the cold war, making most of the detection system data available to the global public would show friends, allies and adversaries that the United States is willing to use even its most advanced defense assets for the betterment of humanity.

    American taxpayers support a truly remarkable monitoring system whose information could significantly improve our health, security and well-being. We should use this hidden treasure to make the world a better and safer place.”

    He highlights the value of open inquiry. He reminds us that taxpayer support (or public funding) should mean that we should use the results of research for public good.



  3. Subbiah Arunachalam


    I read a few minutes ago a talk on Academia as a commons delivered by Prof. David Bollier at the Robert Frost Library, Amherst College, on 26 April. I was very impressed, especially by the following passage and I wanted to share it with you.




    Why aren’t all students in our country sent a letter from their college or university that reads:

    As a member of an academic community, you have an affirmative duty to share your work with your peers and as widely as possible. That is a major responsibility of belonging to an academic commons. By making your work freely available, it acknowledges your debt to prior generations of scholars. It also improves contemporary academic
    research by subjecting it to the widest, most rigorous scrutiny. And will make it easier for future scholars to develop their own
    discoveries and innovations, and so contribute to a more bountiful future.

    If we stand on the shoulders of giants, as Isaac Newton famously declared, why should academia so willingly embrace the closed, proprietary norms of the entertainment industry? Academic knowledge should be regarded as the inalienable resource of a commons.

    Why, indeed, should academia even use the term “intellectual property?” The term was barely used thirty years ago, even by law
    scholars and attorneys. Copyright industries deliberately popularized the term as a way to strengthen their claims of absolute ownership. It was also a way to demonize unauthorized uses of copyrighted works that are entirely legal, as piracy. That point bears repeating: Many unauthorized uses of copyrighted works are entirely legal!

  4. Dear Arun,
    Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront. As a marketing professional I would also like to congratulate you on the flurry on comments and online activity you have generated this past week!
    A CGIAR mandate for OA would certainly tackle a major stumbling block, and that is incentive. Individual performance reviews which included OA targets would make an enormous difference for example. I very much hope OA can be given the weight required from senior management to make it a reality.
    The reasons as to why more CG research should be published OA are too compelling to ignore. Of course it requires a change, and there are barriers. But there are also solutions. In fact I want to point to a checklist published by Tilburg University I blogged last year which deals with many of them.

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