A Global View of Open Access (3) : A perspective on Open Access in China

I am very pleased to introduce the third article in this series of snapshots of the progress towards open access around the globe. Professor Xiaolin Zhang is the Director of National Science Library of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and has been engaged with the open access movement for many years. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was a signatory to the Berlin Declaration for Open Access in 2004 along with the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).  In 2010, the 8th Berlin Conference on Open access was co-hosted in Beijing by CAS and the Max Planck Society. CAS has been a firm supporter of green OA and has now created Institutional Repositories for almost all of its hundred or so research Institutes. Professor Zhang has been in the forefront of these developments in China and CAS and STFC will be the co-hosts of the 3rd annual meeting of the Global Research Council in China in 2014 where the GRC’s steps towards Open Access will be reviewed.

Read and enjoy!

Tony Hey 7th August 2013

 Open Access in China

     1. Promotion of Open Access

As the second largest country in terms of research papers published internationally, and as a country striving for an innovative nation, China has been encouraging open access to scientific information, especially results from publicly-funded research. In December 2003, Lu Yongxiang, then the President of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), signed as the first Chinese scientist the Berlin Declaration for Open Access. In 2004, CAS and the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) officially signed the Berlin Declaration as the first Chinese research and funding organizations. In 2005, the International Conference on Strategies and Policies of Open Access to Scientific Information was held in Beijing by the National Science Library (NSL), CAS, to promote open access on a national scale. In 2006, in CODATA Beijing Congress, the Minister of Science and Technology Mr. Xu Guanghua spoke in his keynote on the need for open access to scientific papers and data. In 2007 and 2009, two international seminars were held in Beijing by NSL/CAS to discuss rights issues and Creative Common Licenses with open access.

2010 saw significant steps forward for open access in China. The 8th Berlin Conference on Open Access was held in Beijing, co-hosted by CAS & the Max Planck Society (MPS), the first Berlin Conference outside Europe. CAS delivered an Open Access Strategy Statement, by Mr. Pan Jiaofeng, Associate Secretary General and Head of Bureau of Strategic Planning, CAS. The statement committed CAS to: promote self-deposit of research papers into institutional repositories; support OA publishing by CAS authors; support OA journals by CAS institutes; promote national policies and funder initiatives for in public access to publicly funded research; participate in international cooperation in OA initiatives. It was also in 2010 CAS formally started the development of its institutional repository grid (CAS IR Grid).

In July 2012, Mr. Wen Jiabao, then the Premier of China, stressed at the National Scientific Innovation Congress that all information resources created from publicly funded research should be accessible as widely as possible. In October 2012, the first China Open Access Week was held by NSL/CAS, where trends and issues on OA policies, IR and OA publishing were discussed, and several road-shows of PLoS, BMC, and arXiv.org, were organized in universities and research institutes. It was during the OA Week that a group of major academic and research libraries led by NSL formed an IR Implementation Group to promote Green OA, and NSL released its DSpace-based IR platform software, CSpace, as an open source software project.

In 2013, CAS, NSFC, and Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) are all studying policies of open access to publicly-funded research, partly encouraged by actions from the OSTP in the US, RUCK in the UK, and the Horizon 2020 OA policy in the EU. CAS and NSFC participated in the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) in May 2013, and endorsed GRC’s Open Access Action Plan.

     2. Actions towards Open Access

China is active in research and scientific publishing and is funding and research organizations have long been in action to promote open access. According to a survey in 2010 by Cheng and Ren, among 1868 high quality STM journals published in China, there are 642 titles, 34%, publishing as open access or delayed open access, which amounts to a more than 300% increase since 2006. 20% of these are in medicine, 16.7% in engineering, and 31% are journals published by universities. More than 44% are immediate open access, and 36% delayed open access for 1-12 months. Many have transferred to open from a subscription only model, with 17% having retrospective content open back to pre-1990, and 13% more are open back to pre-2000. Another survey in 2012, by Chu Jingli, mapped the scene with learned society journals under the umbrella organization of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology (CAST). There are 308 OA titles among a total of 1050, counting for 29%, which means a 137% increase since 2006. 55% of them offer immediate OA, 25.6% with delayed OA in 1-6 months, and a small percentage, 2.5%, have a delayed OA more than 13 months. This 2012 survey asked 79 titles about their funding, with only 7 titles among 79 charging OA publishing fees, while most still keeping print subscription and charging fees from e-journal aggregators. Most STM journals were at least partially funded by host institutes, which is more a norm than an exception in China. Among them there are some high impact Chinese journals, such as Science China-Life Science, Science China-Information Technology, and Chinese Science Bulletin.

In supporting OA publishing by authors, CAS, NSFC, MoST, and the Ministry of Education (MoE, another research funding intensive ministry) have allowed their grantees to pay the article processing charges (APC) from research grants when publishing in peer-reviewed open access journals. This has resulted in increasing numbers of OA papers. For example, there have been 5000+ papers by Chinese authors published in PLoS journals in 2011-2012 alone, over 1000 papers each in 2010 and 2011 by Chinese authors in BMC journals, with an increase to 1650 papers in 2012. Yet few institutes or funding agencies have formal arrangements to support OA publishing. One large scale exception is CAS. Organized by its library, NSL, it has been an institutional member of BMC. After an institutional discount off the official APCs, NSL pays 50% of the remaining APC for papers published with a CAS researcher as the corresponding author. CAS has also signed an Express of Interest to join SCOAP3, the international effort to transfer 90+% high energy physics (HEP) papers to open access. NSL then organized a SCOAP3 China group consisting of HEP-intensive Chinese organizations to support SCOAP3 nationally.

One significant effort has been the CAS IR Grid. CAS is a national research organization in fields of basic sciences, bio-medical sciences, geo-and-environmental sciences, and computer and electronic technologies, with more than 100 research institutes in more 30 cities across China. In 2010 CAS formally began a large scale development of IRs in each of all its research institutes, both as knowledge management and open access measures. By April 2013, 90 IRs are in service and 13 more in development. More than 320,000 full-text articles are now self-deposited, more than 75% of them are currently openly accessible after their embargo periods, with close to one third published in international journals. All repositories are OAI-PMH compatible, and a CAS IR Grid search engine, as an OAI-PMH service provider, provides CAS-wide IR search. With its high volume and high quality, CAS IR Grid now becomes a hot resource, with total downloads exceeding 4 million in 2012 and 2 million in the first 4 months of 2013, with 40% of downloads coming from outside the mainland China. To make the CAS IR Grid a trusted and reliable resource in terms of content and rights management, NSL has developed detailed guidelines for self-deposit, rights management, and repository services. It recommends self-deposit of the accepted author manuscripts of published journal articles with an embargo period of 12 months, full recording of the journal publication information in the metadata, using the journal publication information as the preferred citing reference, and linking, when feasible, back to the journal website. Quite a number of CAS research institutes now make the depositing into IR a condition for researcher performance evaluation and graduate student degree condition. In addition to CAS, Xiamen University developed its IR to include more than 10,000 items openly accessible. A dozen of universities such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, began their IR development recently.

     3. Efforts ahead

Open access in China is now moving forward with ever increasing momentum. It is expected that policy studies in MoST, CAS, and NSFC, will soon be turned into concrete policy measurements. Aware of the complex challenges involved, they will take a more balanced and flexible approach, by supporting both Green and Gold OA models. They may first facilitate Green OA with proper embargo periods and deposit formats. They will extend experiments with Gold OA while striving for quality, cost transparency, affordable APCs, and integrated transition of subscription fees to OA publishing funds. Of course there are still uncertainties, but the direction is unmistakable. Just like the OSTP open access memorandum, the collective push of NSFC and CAS will definitely result in a changed game of the scholarly communications in China. Keep tuned in.

Another push comes from the GRC OA action plan. CAS and NSFC will be the co-hosts of the 3rd Annual Meeting of GRC which will review the implementation of the plan. These two are in a good position with, as mentioned before, CAS being the largest research organization in China, and NSFC the major funder for basic research with a good size funding budget. I can personally contest, as someone present at the GRC 2013, that CAS and NSFC are geared up to take the opportunity of the GRC 2014 to further promote open access. In addition, to facilitate open access policies a number of public campaigns are planned to raise awareness of open access among researchers and research organizations. What is more, there will be detailed studies of implementation policies, supporting infrastructures, and best practices, especially on things like criteria for qualified OA Journals, recommended altmetrics, APC management requirements and mechanisms, and evaluation criteria and methods for OA policies & progresses.

With all these actions to promote open access, I hope and highly expect that China will play a more active and constructive role in the global movement of open access that will benefit Chinese researchers and China greatly.

Xiaolin Zhang, National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences



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