Open Access

ASPP Open Access policy development underway

The Federation is undertaking a major multi-year initiative to develop an Open Access policy for its flagship program, the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP), as a key priority in 2013-2015.

Through the publicly funded ASPP, the Federation has supported the publication of more than 6,000 books that have helped to enrich the social, cultural and intellectual life of Canada and the world. Each year, it awards 185 grants totalling $1.5 million to support research dissemination.

The Federation has been a supporter of the principle of Open Access since 2011. To date, most Open Access discussions have focused on articles published in academic journals and have not included scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences.

As Canada’s single largest supporter of scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences, the Federation is taking a leadership role on this issue. With a view to serving its members, publishers, other ASPP stakeholders and the public, the Federation will facilitate thorough and wide-ranging discussions on the subject. International best practices and models are also being reviewed.

The Federation is committed to supporting the dissemination of research through scholarly books and will carefully consider potential impacts on book publishers and authors while crafting its policy.

The Federation expects to release a draft ASPP Open Access policy in early- to mid-2014 followed by an open consultation period.  It expects to release its final policy in January 2015, to come into effect in April 2015.

For further information, or to participate in the consultation process, please contact

The Federation and Open Access: Background

As a member-based organization of scholarly associations and universities, the Federation represents the interests of these organizations as well as the individual interests of the researchers, graduate students, and practitioners in the humanities and social sciences who are their members. Over the past decade, the international scholarly community has experienced a “serials crisis” resulting from unsupportable price increases of scientific journal subscriptions and the growing concentration of large international, commercial publishers in the journals market. At the same time, technology progressed to allow the opportunity to disseminate research electronically, making possible unprecedented levels of access. In 2004, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada adopted the concept of Open Access in principle and began a consultation with the scholarly community on how best to implement it in relation to SSHRC-funded research. In response, the Federation assembled a representative group of its constituent members to develop a foundational position on the issue.

The Concept of Open Access

Open Access is broadly understood as scholarly literature, largely based on the work that is published in peer-reviewed journals, that is digital, online, and free of charge for anyone with an internet connection to use. Open access seeks to take advantage of the reduced distribution costs associated with online publishing, while shifting the remaining costs away from the end user by using one or more alternative ways to finance the considerable costs of production. While free of cost to the user, scholarly literature is by no means cost-free to publish.

The rationale for open access to scholarly material is grounded in the belief that university-based research and scholarship represent a public good which freely draws on the work of others for its production and will in turn be freely used by others to build upon that knowledge. This is especially the case for work produced with public funds, where there is a legitimate expectation that having underwritten the majority of the research costs, the public should freely access its results. This is critical for research in the social sciences and humanities, much of which is interesting to and understood by the broader public, not simply narrow circles of  specialists. Open access is rooted in scholars’ desire for the greatest readership and impact possible. Most academics have little expectation of making money from journal articles and only somewhat more from monographs (unlike textbooks and popularizations). They weigh their remuneration in terms of citations, promotion and tenure decisions, profile and prestige. Open access maximizes the scholar's readership and research impact since open access literature is more highly cited.

Open access democratizes the diffusion of knowledge, particularly for researchers and students working in developing countries. By removing the particular financial barriers associated with journal subscriptions, electronic information can fulfill the promise it holds to make knowledge more accessible throughout the world, helping to reduce the digital divide between rich and poor countries.

Recommended Positions on Open Access

  1. The Federation supports the principle of open access.
  2. Open access must be promoted, incremental and flexible, not mandated.
  3. The scholarly contribution of open access and self-archived research must be better measured and recognized.
  4. The Federation will undertake education and resource development to assist scholars and associations in adopting best practices for open access.
  5. The financial viability of associations and journals must be assured in the transition toward open access.
  6. The Federation will encourage publishers to adopt policies that support self-archiving.
  7. Digitization is necessary for greater access to scholarship.
  8. The Federation supports the development of international standards for metadata.