Looking to do the most good with its donor contributions and speed the pace of progress to help people living with Parkinson’s disease, The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) recently adopted a progressive open access policy. It serves as a model to funders that want to broaden the dissemination of research results and advance scientific discovery.
As of March 2, the foundation requires that all articles resulting from work it has funded be published in a preprint repository, then in an open access forum under the Creative Commons license (CC BY 4.0) or equivalent license. The policy also mandates any data, code or software needed for independent verification of research results also be made freely available in an open repository.
To ensure that the policy takes hold, MJFF will cover the article processing charges (APCs) of open access publication, including the publication of articles resulting from past MJFF research grants. The foundation requires grantees to provide proof of compliance, and adherence to the policy is required for subsequent funding.
Brett Benedetti, Associate Director of Research Programs for MJFF, says that as a public nonprofit, the foundation feels a responsibility to its donors.
“There shouldn’t be a barrier to someone who went to one of our fundraising events or wrote a check in memory of a loved one to see the results of their support,” Benedetti says. “The work should be freely available for everyone in the community to read.”
The other reasoning behind the move to open was so that other researchers can build upon the work the foundation funds. “It was driven by our commitment to our patients, our donors and seriously wanting to move along research as quickly as possible,” he says.
MJFF has funded more than $900 million to research Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder that affects about six million people worldwide. The foundation, established nearly 20 years ago by actor Michael J. Fox, is focused on finding an objective test for Parkinson’s, engaging patients in research, and supporting the development of new treatments and a cure.
While the New York City-based nonprofit had strongly encouraged open access publishing of grantees research results, it had never been an explicit requirement. As more organizations require open access and more scientists embrace the practice—such as through publication on preprint servers—the foundation decided it was time to enact its own policy.
The senior leadership team revised draft versions of the MJFF policy to make sure language was in place to assure it would be followed.
“We had to have a compliance clause and think about how to make that actionable in our grant making structure.” Benedetti says. “We decided to make future funding contingent on compliance check.”
The foundation wanted the wording to be flexible to require the science to get out rapidly, but also not prevent researchers from publishing in journals of their choice. It also wanted to make sure the foundation devoted adequate resources to allow open publication costs. MJFF offered to pay APCs and has since had several requests.
Benedetti anticipates that other funders will embrace open policies, and he is encouraged by the active role of new funders. He also is hopeful there will be a sea change among researchers who eventually turn to open access journals for their first choice to publish their best work.
For MJFF, the ultimate goal is to get results of research it funds to be widely communicated and result in breakthroughs.
“Our community – people with Parkinson’s, caregivers, physicians and researchers – need to be able to read these articles and learn from them,” says Benedetti. “The hope is this will help design the next round of experiments and clinical trials, which lead to therapeutics that have a meaningful impact.”