Centre for Internet & Society

This post discusses the newly adopted Open Access Policy of the Department of Science and Technology & the Department of Biotechnology.


The Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences approved the Policy on Open Access to Department of Biotechnology(“DBT”) and the Department of Science (“DST”) funded research last week. The DBT and DST Open Access Policy(“Policy”) is a laudable step towards implementing open access to publicly funded research and is also in sync with other open access initiatives by Government funded institutions such as the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research(“CSIR”), Indian Council of Agricultural Research(“ICAR”) and Institute of Mathematical Sciences(“IMSc”).

You may access the approved policy here.

CIS participated in developing the policy and made various submissions with the goal of formulating a stringent open access policy. The drafting committee comprised of members of the DST and DBT. The drafting began in June 2014 and subsequently underwent two rounds of public consultation. You may access and read about the first draft here. I blogged about CIS' comments and the resultant draft policy here and here.

While the CSIR and ICAR present outlines of their open access policies, the IMSc provides access to a digital repository containing digital theses/dissertations, matscience reports and other publications of institute members. CIS also sent comments to the ICAR upon release of ICAR’s draft policy.

Key insertions and amendments to the final draft of the Policy

The initial draft of the Policy did not mandate depositing literature in a repository. The approved Policy requires researchers to compulsorily archive their research and provides access to the same. Requests for embargoed papers deposited in a repository may be forwarded to the authors by use of a Request Button made available in the repository software. To ensure timely dissemination of research the embargo period has been further shortened and the Policy now recommends  “.. the embargo should be no longer than 6 months for Science, Technology and Medicine (STM) disciplines and 12 months for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.” CIS strongly recommended an embargo period of one year, and making deposits in repositories mandatory, regardless of the open access routes ( Gold OA or Green OA) adopted by the researcher.

To encourage making publications open access, the Policy also states that extrinsic metrics such as Journal Impact Factors should not be the criteria to assess a researcher's work. Thus, the Policy seeks to create a level playing field for assessment of quality of publications by making the title of the journal irrelevant. However, to this end, some concerns remain. The Policy does not address the legal position of copyright vesting with the government and the latter retaining rights to reproduction of the work in order to issue free copies of the work to the public. The Policy apparently relinquishes the its rightful ownership of the Government in the research by stating that it does not intend to override the agreements between the researchers and publishers, however, it recommends the authors to bring to the notice of publishers their obligations under the Policy. This is a cause for grave concern because the bargaining power still rests in the hands of the publishers, who may impose unfair terms on researchers to make the publication open access. Furthermore, the Policy fails to establish a time period for compliance and setting up of required infrastructure, thereby leaving obligations and duties of various stakeholders undefined.

Nonetheless, the policy is a welcome step in the field of Indian scientific research. It stands to impact approximately 18,000 papers published since 2013 under the aegis of the DBT and DST. As pointed out earlier, in the recent past many scientific research institutions have implemented open access policies. It is hoped that the move shall be emulated across all disciplines, including arts, humanities and social sciences.


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