Australian Health Council mandates immediate open access

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NHMRC guidelines have been updated to ‘ensure the greatest impact of the research we fund’

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council has mandated open access immediate publication for research arising from its grants.

In a change announced on September 20 and effective immediately, the NHMRC told researchers that new grant applications would fall under the immediate access rule.

All other peer-reviewed publications, from previously awarded grants or from cycles with previously issued guidelines, must be made available for open access within 12 months, in accordance with previous board policy. By January 1, 2024, all NHMRC grants will be covered by the new rules.

The change also mandates the use of a Creative Commons Attribution license to allow public use of the work.

Ensure impact

NHMRC chief executive Anne Kelso said in a statement that the council supports open access “because it helps ensure the greatest impact of the research we fund”.

The board said its new policy is in line with growing international trends toward open access publishing, including the recent announcement by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that all U.S. funding agencies are required to adopt embargo-free open access publishing policies. before December 31, 2025.

In a statement, the board said the decision was “based on extensive consultation with the Australian research sector, advice from NHMRC’s expert committees and international best practice”.

The council proposed immediate open access in 2021, but delayed the decision following feedback from universities and medical research institutes on costs and publisher relationship issues.

NHMRC policy allows for more restrictive publication where necessary to respect the “intellectual and cultural rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

No particular mode of publication has been planned by the Board. “NHMRC has no single preferred path to open access and respects a diversity of approaches,” the policy states.

Authors can either make their original publication in an open access journal or simultaneously publish their work in an online repository managed by their institution or another organization.

The council has also joined the international open access group Coalition S.

In 2021, the NHMRC awarded grants totaling just over A$986 million.

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