Open Access in Argentina

Silvia Nakano

Open Access in Argentina


Silvia Nakano – National Director of Physical Resources in Science and Technology Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Production, Argentina

(interviewer: Michał Starczewski)


On November 13th, 2013, the Argentinian parliament unanimously passed the law on Open Access to publicly funded research outputs. Could you present and explain the main points of the law?

Main points of the Law Nr. 26.899 are:

1. It establishes the responsibilities of actors involved in scientific research processes to provide open access to their results for the scientific community and the general public, defining reasonable timeframe for the release and availability of data and information produced.

2. The Law has jurisdiction over the following persons, individual or institutional:

a. Public bodies and institutions of the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation (SNCTI) that receive funding from the Federal Government have to:

i. Develop open access institutional digital repositories (OAIDR) to deposit the scientific and technological production from own research activity which passed through a quality assessment process, regardless if it has been published or not.

ii. Establish policies for public access to primary research data through open access institutional digital repositories or National Data Portals, as well as institutional policies for management and long-term preservation.

iii. Create repositories compatible with internationally adopted standards for interoperability and ensure free access to their documents and data over the Internet or other information technologies appropriate for the purpose, providing the necessary conditions for protection of the rights of the institution and the authors.

b. Researchers, technologists, professors, postdoctoral fellows and master’s and doctoral students whose research activity is financed with public funds, have to:

i. Deposit or expressly authorize the submission of a copy, of the final version of scientific and/or technological production published or accepted for publication in open access institutional digital repositories, within a six months period from the date of their official publication or approval.

ii. Deposit primary research data in institutional repositories or digital archives, owned or shared, that should be publicly available no later than five years from the time of collection, according to the policies established by the institutions as explained above, being able to exclude the diffusion of primary data in cases where it should remain confidential for strategic or national security reasons.

c. Government agencies granting or funding research projects that result in the generation of primary data, documents and / or publications, have to include clauses containing contract terms for the presentation of a management plan to ensure public availability of results, according to the specificities of the subject area.

d. Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation of Production is the executive authority of this Law.

3. Exemptions from the above obligations: In case of research outputs protected by industrial property rights and / or previous third parties’ agreements, authors should provide and allow public access to the metadata of such intellectual works and / or primary data, providing complete information of them and should provide access to the full content from the time of its release.

4. Violations of the provisions of this law by the actors (institutions or individuals) turn them not eligible for public financial support for future research.

Could you describe the process of passing the law? Who supported OA? Was there some disscusion between political parties? Who were the main stakeholders? Was there somebody who tried to prevent the bill from passing?

In April 2010, the Ministry of Science presented a bill to the Committee on Science of the House of Representatives (our Parliament is bicameral). With the assistance of officials from the Ministry, the discussions in the House focused on the scope of the obligations that would be stated by of the future law. Such was the receptivity that discussions were betting that this Bill also should reach the scientific production of private institutions, since the Representatives understood that knowledge or innovation resulting from research could also be partially or indirectly subsidized by public funds. In other words, the deputies understood that scientific production developed by private institutions should also be released in open access. In this context, the draft was approved by both committees on Science and Budget and Finance, obtaining the initial approval unanimously by the Deputies in May 2012.

The discussion in the Senate, where the Provinces of this Federal Republic are represented also took place in two different Committees: on Science and on Communication. As requested by Senators, officials of the Ministry of Science explained the project and its context. Before the last presentation, a Senator argued the need for a debate on the issue of intellectual property. For this, two renowned lawyers in the country, experts on Copyright and Industrial Property were invited but guests did not attend the meeting and the president of the Committee asked for voting without further delay. The vote was again unanimous.

Could you tell us about the prehistory of the law: how the idea of open access appeared in the Ministry?  What was the attitude of the scholarly community? Since OA regulations apply to private institutions' research outputs, has it been widely accepted by these institutions?

One might say that when the Secretariat for Scientific and Technological Articulation of the Ministry of Science established the first national network of biological data (SNDB) back in 2009 and a year later launched its portal of biological data, the Ministry was giving one of its first steps towards deploying strategies to develop an open access policy. A second step was associated with changes driven by the same Secretariat of Articulation concerning the management of the Electronic Library of Science and Technology, which provides internet access to international publications to all researchers in the country. The Electronic Library was created on 2002, and with the arrival of the Ministry of Science in 2007, its Advisory Board directed efforts to promote Open Access through different actions: become part of the regional project LA REFERENCIA (the regional network of publications scientific Open Access), add titles in Open Access to the subscribed publications collection, create a National System of Digital Repositories (SNRD), among others. Today the Ministry manages four National Systems of Data (Biological, Sea Data, Climatic Data and Genomic Data) its portals and harvesters. A large number of scientific institutions have joint voluntarily these initiatives to give open access to the national scientific production.

A vanguard of research community has joined the Open Access initiative in several ways: both as political leadership (our hierarchical authorities are scientists from various disciplinary areas) and as participants in the Advisory Boards, Committees and Commissions of Experts working for the development of these facilities. Without disciplinary and institutional policy recommendations it would have been impossible to develop them. It is important to say that membership is voluntary: nobody forces to scientific institutions and researchers to support national systems and portals. This fact doesn’t deny that there have been and still remain some concerns and/or resistance from the community to release their data... however, the Law 26.899 is clear enough about this point and creates binding obligations. The Act extends to both public and private universities that do research with public funds. Before the Law, private universities and other NGOs were already involved voluntarily and enthusiastically to these ministerial initiatives.

What are the implications of the new law for publishers? Don't they have to change their buisness models?

The obligations of the Law 26.899 reach scientific institutions and researchers. It fixes deadlines for embargo to published articles and primary data, and researchers and their institutions should take precautions before publishing to comply with the terms of the Act: establish their institutional OA policy and mandates, define the types of contracts, assignment of rights and/or models of addenda to be signed with publishers. Scientific system is responsible for developing processes and instruments to protect the rights of authors and institutions. If publishers must change their business model or not is an editorial decision. The truth is that all publishers that the country subscribes for more than US$ 20 million per year are informed about the Law long before and accepted unanimously obligations emanating from it. We believe that none of them could by now oppose or hinder the release of articles 6 months after publication. Moreover, some of them support explicitly national legislation of Open Access allowing to publish the final version of articles from day 1 after its publication in the subscribed journal because they understand that the publication in the repository and its harvest through a national portal merely maximize the visibility of articles. Other publishers bring us a monthly list of Argentines’ publications, collaborating with tracking and releasing as established by the Law 26.899. In any case the law is restrictive as to where and when researchers should publish. A good interpretation of the rule should evaluate that any commercial contract between individuals can be empowered over or against a national law. For this reason, the Ministry of Science subscribes international literature, solely using official instruments of procurement and contracting of the National State and never by signing any business license that imposes foreign or opposite conditions to technical and legal requirements of the country. From SNRD, Electronic Library and scientific repositories nationwide, researchers are encouraged to publish with publishers that are likely to contribute to the fulfillment of institutional mandates and regulatory obligations of Open Access Law.

What is the main purpose of OA policy in Argentina?

In Argentina, the national government is the main promoter of science, technology and productive innovation through researchers’ employment policies and financing research activities.

The free public access to scientific and technological production contributes not only to the advancement of science, but to the increase of cultural, educational, social and economic patrimony. Thus, it helps to improve the people’s quality of life and to foster scientific outputs’ prestige in the international context.

Aims of OA policy in Argentina are:

  • Allow access through interoperable repositories and national portals to primary data, products and publications resulting from publicly funded research.
  • Provide national and international visibility to Argentina’s scientific production.

How would you describe your policy in terms of green vs. gold and gratis vs. libre open access?

In terms of green/gold, gratis/libre, the local trend is clearly inclined towards the Open Access concept established at the 3B statements (Budapest, Bethesda, Berlin): The Open Access model means that users may freely read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of scientific papers, and use them for legitimate purposes related to scientific research, education or public policy management without economic, legal or technical barriers.
 The only condition for use and reuse is to give attribution of authorship to the authors; that means properly acknowledgement and citation.
For this, Argentina, through the Ministry of Science, created the National System of Digital Repositories (SNRD) to promote, coordinate and manage a network of interoperable repositories, physically distributed, created and administered by Universities, R+D institutions or groups of institutions nationwide, in order to increase the visibility and impact of scientific and technological production. In other words, Argentina’s policy supports the development of green and libre OA.

Does the Argentinian legislation encourage or mandate OA researchers and publishers to use open licenses, i.e. CC-BY?

The Law does not require the use of open licenses. However, in the context of the regulatory tasks of the Act, we are analyzing the importance of promoting their use until the current national regulatory plexus allows them.

Is open-licensing a common practice in Argentina? How do you support libre OA, if not obligating to use Creative Commons licenses?

While Open Access Act makes no mention of open licenses and it still remains in the process of regulation, we are considering the convenience of recommending its use as well as the existence of legal aspects to support its inclusion in an official document signed by the President of Argentina. The truth is that the use of Creative Commons licenses is an increasing de facto practice in most Argentine repositories, from both, existing and being created. Also, these licenses are being implemented not only within the repositories, but also in open access journals in the country, the institutional websites of universities and official agencies. For example:

Few days after the OA has-been passed legislation, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MINCyT) officially launched national repository network. Could you elaborate on this network? Is e-infrastructure for OA developed enough to carry out all the Duties imposed on the scientific community?

I must point out that the SNRD was formally created in 2011 by Ministerial Resolution 469/11 and what was officially released a week after the approval of Law 26.899 was the SNRD’s portal where local repositories are harvested.
Following your question, the SNRD whose mission was described above, is integrated by the central node and institutional nodes.

The central node is located in the Ministry of Science and its main functions are to coordinate the actions of the network and manage the portal that provides unified access to scientific and technical production deposited in repositories.

Institutional nodes are organizations belonging to the National System of Science, Technology and Innovation owning a digital repository of science and technology, that have the minimum infrastructure required for operation and maintenance and have officially joined the SNRD.

This national network allows:

  • researchers, to deposit their productions in national repositories,
  • scientific institutions, to generate open access institutional memory and ensure long-term access to content stored there,
  • the Federal Government, to make available scientific and technological production that has been generated by public funds to the general public and the world,
  • all stakeholders, to increase the visibility of their scientific outputs.

Regarding the e-infrastructure, the country has a local National Research and Education Network (NREN), INNOVARED, which combined with other initiatives of the same Secretary of Articulation of the Ministry of Science (i.e. the National System of High Performance Computing and the National System of Advanced Networks), has launched three months ago the National e-Science Plan (see video: This Plan and projects will be necessarily compliant to all initiatives around repositories and OA.

Why, from your point of view, opening data is much slower process than opening the publications?

There are several issues that could explain why the process of release data seems to be slower than the publications. We will only list them briefly as each one of them could become a discussion that would exceed this interview:

  • The primary data have disciplinary particularities on which consensus and agreement of the discipline is required. In the same discipline different trends or schools can coexist with different accents on what is important or crucial about the data generated by their disciplinary field and experts.
  • Many of the primary scientific data is highly dispersed on personal computers of researchers and their group or physical files that are not necessarily digitized, contain various formats and have little or no chance of being converted, become interoperable or kept to endure over time.
  • In turn, requesting researchers the release of the primary data sets is not always a simple task since it requires proper handling by the authorities of the institution in terms of mandates, addendums and agreements.
  • Institutional practices also seem to have too much work to do to bring legal support, infrastructure and financial and human resources dedicated to define common criteria for the management of primary data within groups of the same organization and for long-term maintenance.
  • Librarians and repository managers have worked hard and most of them have been leading the open access movement in their countries, developing or adapting librarianship instrumental to the needs to release publications. This has not happened with the data: it has been found a lack of skills, people and procedures regarding manage, curation, preservation of datasets to make them accessible, interoperable and reusable. So there is too much work to do in terms of promoting new profiles and skills among librarians, researchers, data curators, IT people, and so on.
  • Open access journals in the country and region (SciELO, Redalyc, etc.) have been an important precedent to define OA policies, to implement green OA and to the formation of both researchers and repository managers on how to organize the literature in open access. The treatment of the data has no had that history since its past has been more circumscribed to the problem of storage versus exponential growth (so called “big data”), instead of the issue of “long tail” data management and curation.
  • There are technical issues related to the release of primary data that still need to be solved such as: collaborative research and authorship of the data, unique identifiers applied to the data and/or datasets, common and basic metadata schemas, duplicated publications of data and citation of primary data. Those are some of the various aspects that require specific discussion and in the global scale these conversations have barely started.

It seems that e-infrastructure for OA in Argentina is pretty well coordinated with similar e-infrastructure in other countries. You participate in LA Referencia, South-American open access repositories-network, as well as cooperate with european e-infrastructure projects, such as OpenAIRE. What added value do you see in this?

We understand that Open Access will be real when interoperable institutional repositories will be developed worldwide. It would be of little use if only a marginal number of countries publish in open access, especially those with higher levels of scientific production on a global scale. In this regard, we understand that networking at regional and world order is essential to enhance the local task, join forces, establish partnerships and define common standards that help to share more and better science products.

Essential issue for politicians and administration is money. What costs are related to the OA law? What is included in these costs? What are the ways of paying for open access on the country level?

The implementation of a law that promotes Open Access involves all of a sudden an intangible cost that must be estimated in time and effort of raising consciousness, training people and moving research and dissemination practices governed by the logic of pay-per-view and impact factor. Open Access directly challenges the actors involved in the production cycle of scientific knowledge. This implies that all concerns associated to the release of data and publications in researchers’ and institutions’ hearts need to be contained with educational labor, transition measures and concrete proofs of benefits of OA, as much as the projects need to be afforded with appropriate resources.
In summary, the Ministry, through SNRD maintains various lines of financing to support the strengthening of existing repositories and the creation of new ones. In this sense, funds go to:

  • the acquisition of computer equipment and associated equipment (racks, air conditioners, etc.),
  • internships for metadata entry, document scanning, quality control, among other tasks,
  • HR training (seminars, introductory and advanced courses, training workshops and training stays) to grow awareness, knowledge and skills for a proper open dissemination and long-term preservation of scientific production.

Perhaps more important than emphasize the costs, that exist and need to be steadily subsidized and previously budgeted, Politics and Managers should focus in the savings that Open Access literature and primary research data is bringing to their economies.

Open access can be seen as just an important first step toward the open science and efficient scholarly communication system. Do you have any plans of next steps? What remains to be done?

Indeed, OA is one of the necessary steps to think about Open Science. Another necessary step to achieve open science is to ensure the existence of the e-infrastructure needed in such a vast country like ours. As mentioned previously, Argentina is working from INNOVARed and the National System of Advanced Networks in order to maintain and expand connectivity to ensure the functioning of not only the repositories but also platforms and projects that require management of large volumes of information for collaborative and open science to become true.
Regarding SNRD, we are in a growth stage. New ideas and initiatives around OA are appearing all the time in different parts of the world and, as it progresses in its development and implementation, the needs of the scientific community also grow and become more sophisticated. So in the short and medium term we will be facing challenges such as:

  • To open research primary data in databases, repositories and portals not only looking for interoperability and accessibility but re-usability, which is one of the leit motif of Open Access.
  • To integrate data repositories and portals with publications looking for Linked Data,
  • To assist and empower the repositories community in all activities concerning quality of metadata, digital preservation and data curation.

This material is under the CC BY-SA 4.0 licence.

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