Free Access To Academic Papers For Everyone In India: Government Proposes 'One Nation, One Subscription' Approach As Part Of Major Shift To Openness

from the open-everything dept

Techdirt has been following the important copyright case in India that is about how people in that country can access academic journals. Currently, many turn to “shadow libraries” like Sci-Hub and Libgen, because they cannot afford the often hefty frees that academic publishers charge to access papers. If a new “Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy” (pdf), just released as a draft by the Government of India, comes to fruition, people may not need to:

The Government of India will negotiate with journal publishers for a “one nation, one subscription” policy whereby, in return for one centrally-negotiated payment, all individuals in India will have access to journal articles. This will replace individual institutional journal subscriptions.

That’s just one of the bold ideas contained in the 63-page document. Here’s another: open access to all research funded by the Indian taxpayers.

Full text of final accepted author versions of manuscripts (postprints and optionally preprints) along with supplementary materials, which are the result of public funding or performed in publicly funded institutions, or were performed using infrastructure built with the support of public funds will be deposited, immediately upon acceptance, to an institutional repository or central repository.

Similarly, all data generated from publicly funded research will be released as open data, with a few exceptions:

All data used in and generated from public-funded research will be available to everyone (larger scientific community and public) under FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) terms. Wherever applicable, exceptions will be made on grounds of privacy, national security and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Even in such situations, suitably anonymised and/or redacted data will be made available. In all cases, where the data cannot be released to the general public, there will be a mechanism to release it to bonafide/authorised researchers.

All publicly funded scientific resources will be made shareable and accessible nationally through digital platforms, including laboratories, supercomputing and AI facilities. Publicly funded open educational resources will be made available under a “minimally restrictive” open content license. Libraries at publicly funded institutions will be accessible to everyone, subject only to “reasonable security protocols”.

Another idea is the creation of a dedicated portal (remember those?), the Indian Science and Technology Archive of Research, which will provide access to all publicly funded research, including manuscripts, research data, supplementary information, research protocols, review articles, conference proceedings, monographs, book chapters, etc. There will also be a national science, technology and innovation “observatory”, which will establish data repositories and a computational grid, among other things.

It’s an incredibly ambitious program, with an ambitious goal: “To achieve technological self-reliance and position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come.” The other two superpowers being the US and China, presumably. Whether that program is implemented, wholly or even just in part, is another matter, and will depend on the lobbying that will now inevitably take place, and the usual budgetary constraints. But it is certainly impressive in the completeness of its vision, and in its commitment to openness and sharing in all its forms.

Comments on the proposals can be sent to india-stip@gov.in until Monday, 25 January, 2021.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Comments on “Free Access To Academic Papers For Everyone In India: Government Proposes 'One Nation, One Subscription' Approach As Part Of Major Shift To Openness”

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Anonymous Coward says:

All data used in and generated from public-funded research will be available to everyone (larger scientific community and public) under FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) terms. Wherever applicable, exceptions will be made on grounds of privacy, national security and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

That sound mostly sane. The IPR block looks… dubious. It makes sense that if 3rd party IP was used in publicly funded research, the 3rd party IP doesn’t automatically become public domain. However the phrasing here is vague. It could also be read as "If some of the organizations involved in the research decide the publicly funded research ought to be their IP, the public is SOL", which is not sane (but probably a tactic IP maximalists would try if the actual wording allows any wiggle room).

Anonymous Coward says:

How is this better than having their scientists use Sci-Hub and publish in open-access journals? The main difference seems to be that they’re paying shakedown fees to publishers. Plus, only people in India will get the access, which means it will probably be a pain in the ass: possibly requiring a login, acceptance of terms of service, proof of residency, a lack of anonymity…

With a population of 1.3 billion, they’d have little trouble starting their own open-access journals if the incumbent publishers gave them any trouble. Those could become the leading journals for the world, if they had much better terms than existing open-access journals (notably, low or zero publishing fees).

Here’s another: open access to all research funded by the Indian taxpayers.

The quoted text doesn’t support this interpretation—it says it will be deposited, but doesn’t say who will get access. I’m not able to access the dst.gov.in links. Will the whole world have access, or merely those in India?

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