Open access policy/FAQ

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A. General

  1. Why are you launching an open access policy?
    The Wikimedia Foundation has a longstanding commitment to increasing global access to knowledge. Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites are closely connected to open access goals of making scholarship freely available and reusable. Implementing an open access policy is therefore key to our mission. We strive to empower the public to access and reuse existing research material in order to build upon the global body of knowledge. Our Open Access Policy is part of a larger movement that is gaining traction around the world. Research funders such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health have implemented their own versions of open access policies. For a full list of institutions that have implemented similar policies, see here.

  2. What do you mean by "open access"?
    We rely on the "open access" definition in the Budapest Open Access Initiative which calls for:

    "[F]ree availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."

  3. How does this policy fit within existing open access models?
    “Open access” most commonly comes in one of two models: “gold” and “green.” Under the gold model, authors publish exclusively in open access journals that provide immediate open access to all articles. Under the green model, authors publish their research in any outlet and then archive their articles in an open access repository. Open access policies can also focus on "free" access in two different ways: gratis open access, which is free online access, and libre open access, which is free online access plus additional usage and licensing rights.

    Our Open Access Policy is generally a libre policy. But it is not designed to fall neatly within different open access models, and instead is written to best serve the needs of the Wikimedia community. The current version is a pilot policy. After its implementation on March 18, 2015, we will be gathering data on specific needs researchers face upon the advent of this policy. In the future, we will modify this policy according to our findings.

  4. How does this policy affect research only partially funded or supported by the Wikimedia Foundation?
    Even research partially funded or supported by the Wikimedia Foundation must comply with this Open Access Policy. However, researchers may apply for a limited waiver to explain exceptional circumstances that justify forgoing the requirements of this policy. Even in rare cases where limited waivers are granted, the Wikimedia Foundation will still expect researchers to comply with the policy to the greatest extent possible.

  5. Do I need permission to use an alternative license equivalent in nature to your suggestions?
    You are free to use an alternative license equivalent to our suggestions if it is listed in the links we provide. To use some other form of license that is not listed in those links, we do require that you seek permission.

  6. How does the implementation of this Open Access Policy affect existing research projects receiving support from the Wikimedia Foundation?
    Research projects already underway at the time of implementation of our Open Access Policy (March 18, 2015) will not be affected by the new requirements created under this policy.

  7. Will community feedback be used to amend the policy?
    Yes! The Wikimedia Foundation will monitor the discussion on this Meta-Wiki page about the official open access policy published on the Wikimedia Foundation wiki. Community feedback will be incorporated into the policy on an ongoing basis. Additionally, we will monitor the types of limited waiver requests submitted to see if changes to the policy are needed to make the policy requirements more attainable.

  8. Am I responsible for complying with this Open Access Policy with regards to research that arises as a by-product of my Wikimedia Foundation-funded project which I am not the author of?
    No, we do not expect researchers to ensure that research conducted by others complies with our Open Access Policy, even if it is based on the researcher's Wikimedia Foundation-funded project.

  9. How does this policy apply to co-authored articles?
    This policy applies in full to co-authored articles. Multiple individuals who co-author an article hold joint copyright in their work, and each acting individually can freely license the work. Any co-author of an article produced with support from the Wikimedia Foundation should therefore comply with this policy.

  10. Where can I ask for help with implementing this Policy?
    Please do not hesitate to ask the Staff member you are in contact with to conduct your research. If they do not have the answer, they can find it for you!


B. Proposal

  1. When do I need to document my proposal on Meta-Wiki?
    You are expected to document the original research proposal, main research questions, and key outcomes before the publication of your work. We ask that you start documenting your proposal on Meta-Wiki as early as possible and add your outcomes as they become available. If you post your key findings on Meta-Wiki before the publication peer-review process take place, please update the findings on Meta-Wiki if you adjust them in your research based on reviewers’ feedback.

    To maximize the accessibility of your research, you could write a blog post on the Wikimedia Blog or another platform and link to your proposal on Meta-Wiki. You can follow this guide to propose a post for the Wikimedia Blog.

  2. Where do I need to document my proposal on Meta-Wiki?
    Posting your proposal in the Research Index is preferred, though Wikimedia Foundation grantees may use their grant proposal pages instead.

  3. How detailed does the initial documentation of the proposal on Meta-Wiki need to be, i.e., what specifically should this include?
    The research proposal should be detailed enough to describe the purpose of your research, the questions you hope to answer, your research method, and your general findings or results as they become available. The proposal does not need to include a detailed analysis of the results, as those will be published later.

C. Supporting Materials

  1. My research involves many different datasets. Which ones should I make available to the public?
    As a general rule of thumb, you should release all non-sensitive data used in your research that is needed to make it reproducible. Depending on the nature of the research and the datasets used or produced, releasing all data may not be in compliance with the Wikimedia Foundation’s privacy policy and data retention guidelines. In such cases, the researchers should work with the designated Wikimedia Foundation staff to ensure that as much data as possible is made publicly available without putting Wikimedia users at risk.

  2. What do you mean by “aggregated and properly anonymized data”?
    When a research project relies entirely on publicly available data, we require all raw and aggregated data used and produced as part of the research to be published. When the research, partially or completely, relies on non-public data (for example, data accessed under a non-disclosure agreement), the researchers will be expected to publish aggregated and properly anonymized data. Depending on the sensitivity of the data, anonymization and aggregation will be conducted in collaboration with the Wikimedia Foundation’s designated staff to ensure that the release doesn’t put our users at risk or violate our privacy policy. In particular, you need to make sure that the data you release is sufficiently aggregated so that it does not include personally identifiable information and reasonably eliminates the risk of future de-anonymization. The Wikimedia privacy policy defines personally identifiable information as:
    1. real names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, identification numbers on government-issued IDs, IP addresses, user-agent information, credit card numbers;
    2. when associated with one of the items in subsection (a), any sensitive data such as date of birth, gender, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic origins, marital or familial status, medical conditions or disabilities, political affiliation, and religion; and
    3. any of the items in (i) or (ii) when associated with a user account.

  3. How should I anonymize questionnaire responses?
    Whether data from questionnaires can be released depends on the data and the terms the participants of the questionnaires agreed to prior to the study. If the participants have been informed that their responses will be made publicly available, researchers should be able to release the data after removing all personally identifiable information. If the release requires aggregation according to the questionnaire terms, researchers need to follow the procedure described in FAQ 2 above ("What do you mean by 'aggregated and properly anonymized data'?").

  4. Where should I deposit data to comply with the policy?
    We recommend that any dataset suitable for publication under the terms of the policy be made available in an open data repository with proper data documentation and citation support. We prefer that you submit your dataset in our dedicated repository on DataHub. Our staff can provide assistance to researchers on best practices for using this repository. We also recommend depositing the dataset in a public data registry that supports DataCite protocols for data citation and discoverability: examples of such registries include Figshare and Zenodo. See the following example:

    Halfaker, A., Taraborelli, D. (2015). Scholarly article citations in Wikipedia. figshare. doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.1299540

  5. Where should I deposit research code to comply with the policy?
    We recommend that research code released under the terms of this policy be made available in a revision-controlled repository such as GitHub or Bitbucket.

  6. How should I license software in my project?
    We prefer that you release source code under the GNU General Public License version 2.0 or any other Open Source Initiative-approved license. If your project includes server-side software that is not distributed (e.g., web services), we ask that you release it under the AGPL to ensure that improvements to your software must be freely licensed.

D. Publishing Materials

  1. Do I need to submit my post-print manuscript in a repository, or is submission of a pre-print manuscript sufficient?
    We encourage all authors to deposit post-print manuscripts when possible. If the publication venue of your choice does not allow you to do so, you must apply for a limited waiver and submit the pre-print version of your manuscript.

  2. What is a "public and permanently archived repository"?
    These are places where researchers can deposit information that can be freely accessed by the public through digital means. Examples include pre-print repositories; institutional repositories; central repositories like Wikimedia Commons, Internet Archive, and PubMed Central; and digital open access journals. We discourage depositing articles solely on the authors’ personal websites, as they don’t provide any guarantee of long-term preservation of the content.

  3. Will the Wikimedia Foundation cover Article Processing Charges (APCs) for published materials, when applicable?
    Some journals and outlets require the payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs) to make publications immediately available or to allow the authors to deposit a copy of these publications in a public repository. The Wikimedia Foundation does not cover APCs for research conducted under the terms of this policy, but researchers may apply for an additional grant from the Wikimedia Foundation to cover these fees under certain circumstances.

E. Limited Waiver

  1. What information should I include in my request for a limited waiver?
    The Wikimedia Foundation will only grant a waiver under exceptional circumstances, so any request for a waiver must include compelling reasons to justify a deviation from our Open Access Policy. Researchers are expected to point out which specific provisions they cannot comply with, explain why they are unable to comply with those provisions, and, if possible, describe how they might be able to comply with the spirit of the policy in alternative ways. We recommend including as much information in your request as possible to help us make an informed decision. This includes providing any supporting documentation that details your inability to comply with our Open Access Policy. Please remember that a summary of your request for a waiver and the Wikimedia Foundation’s response will be made available publicly. We recommend that you highlight any sensitive information that you do not want made public (and explain why), so we can avoid disclosing it in the public summary.

  2. Who should I send my request for a limited waiver to?
    Researchers should submit their request to the designated Wikimedia Foundation staff member they are coordinating their research with. This will ensure that the special circumstances of each research project are fully considered in each request.