Major Chinese science funders want research they pay for publicly available within a year

A massive drive towards open access publishing in China will mean that most of the country’s top research papers will have to be freely accessible within a year of publication. The policy also sees China backing ‘green’ open access, where papers are archived in a publicly accessible database after a set period of time, rather than paying the journal to make the article available immediately, known as ‘gold’ open access.

On 15 May, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) jointly announced that from now on all research produce by scientists at the CAS and all papers supported by NSFC grants must be archived in open access databases within one year of publication.

In 2012, Chinese scientists published 186,577 papers in journals indexed by Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index (SCI) database, accounting for 13.9% of the world’s scientific output. More than 100,000 of these were funded by the NSFC. CAS scientists published 18,000 SCI papers in 2012. In the same year, another 500,000 papers were published in domestic science and technology journals, mostly in Chinese.

This is the latest move in an international effort to promote open access by archiving research in publicly accessible databases, such as the National Institutes of Health’s PubMed Central. According to Zhang Xiaolin, director of the CAS affiliated National Science Library, another major Chinese funder, the science and technology ministry is also considering an open access policy.

Pan Jiaofeng, vice secretary general of the CAS, told a news conference at the policy’s launch that open access is an obligation and responsibility of scientists that will promote innovation around the world. Pan added that both the CAS and NSFC are now working out the details on implementing the policy.

Currently, most top research conducted by Chinese scientists is published in international journals, explains Ren Shengli, editor-in-chief of the journal Science Foundation in China, making it inaccessible to many domestic researchers. The new policy is not expected to affect China’s own publishing industry as most journals are subsidised by the government or research institutions.

Leading scientific publishers haven’t been taken by surprise by this latest announcement. Nick Campbell, Shanghai-based executive editor of Nature, tells Chemistry World: ‘This new move from CAS and NSFC sends a message to Chinese researchers that is in line with funders in other countries. We are strongly committed to open research and we are already set up to help Chinese researchers comply with these new rules.’