Effective January 17, all research funded in whole or in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation must be published in journals that are immediately free-to-access, under a Creative Commons Attribution-only license.
It's an incalculably large shot in the arm for the open access movement, and is a challenge to other major science funders to follow suit. The foundation's grants will come with an extra budget to pay for open access peer-review. The new policy also specifies that raw research data must be made available immediately upon publication.
The next move is up to the publishers, many of whom — even those that are open access in name — have policies that conflict with the Gates policy, meaning that they will not be able to publish Gates-funded research as of 2017, unless they change those policies.
This demand goes further than any other funding agency has dared. The UK's Wellcome Trust, for example, demands a CC-BY license when it is paying for a paper's publication — but does not require it for the archived version of a manuscript published in a paywalled journal. Indeed, many researchers actively dislike the thought of allowing such liberal re-use of their work, surveys have suggested. But Gates Foundation spokeswoman Amy Enright says that "author-archived articles (even those made available after a 12-month delay) will need to be available after the 12 month period on terms and conditions equivalent to those in a CC-BY license."
Most non-OA publishers do not permit authors to apply a CC-BY license to their archived, open, manuscripts. Nature, for example, states that openly archived manuscripts may not be re-used for commercial purposes. So do the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elsevier and Wiley and many other publishers (in relation to their non-OA journals).
"It's a major change. It would be major if publishers that didn't previously use CC-BY start to use it, even for the subset of authors funded by the Gates Foundation. It would be major if publishers that didn't previously allow immediate or unembargoed OA start to allow it, again even for that subset of authors. And of course it would be major if some publishers refused to publish Gates-funded authors," says Peter Suber, director of the Office for Scholarly Communication at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"You could say that Gates-funded authors can't publish in journals that refuse to use CC-BY. Or you could say that those journals can't publish Gates-funded authors. It may look like a stand-off but I think it's the start of a negotiation," Suber adds — noting that when the NIH's policy was announced in 2008, many publishers did not want to accommodate all its terms, but now all do.