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Japan takes first steps towards Open Access

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Yesterday I posted about the debate on the British government’s new plans for the dissemination of Open Access. According to the announced guidelines, all results of research that is financed or subsidized by public money should be available to anyone interested in obtaining it. This means that all research findings should be published in OA. The new policy has not come into effect yet, but it has already sparked great excitement in the scientific community. Meanwhile, Japan seems to be heading in exactly the same direction.

According to recent information, Japan’s Ministry of Education and Science decided to introduce a new policy of OA for Japanese universities. From April 2013 all dissertations by young scientists, which are approved and accepted by Japanese universities, will have to be released freely on the Internet.

At present, there are only a few sketchy details available on the new regulation, and we will have to wait until March 2013 to learn more; so for now we do not know in what form these dissertations will be published. It is very unlikely that it will be in a Gold OA model. Instead, we can expect that the Ministry will have chosen to use institutional repositories, i.e., the Green OA.

Undoubtedly, this decision will carry many ramifications for the Japanese academic community; it may mean, for example, that universities will have to provide adequate infrastructures to meet the new requirements. However, university repositories are not the only possibility, because the publication of doctoral dissertations could appear collectively on a portal specially set up for this purpose; but for now, these are only speculations.

The case of Japan shows that the idea of ​​Open Access is becoming increasingly popular around the world, and that the British centrally-determined policy on OA is not an exception. Without a doubt, top-down change, even though it may entail mistakes and errors to begin with, gives a strong boost to the development of OA and accelerates its dissemination. It is also worth noting that the Japanese approach seems to be very well balanced. As a consequence of the requirement to publish one’s dissertation on the internet, young scientists will become accustomed to this form of publishing from the very beginning. Will Japan’s OA policy go even further? It is hard to say, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.

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