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Research is Getting a Bit More Open: Good News for Historical Research in Canada

Ian Milligan

When we started up way back in 2009 (!), we did it with a pretty simple vision in mind: historians were producing good scholarship, but it was inaccessible. It was inaccessible for a few reasons: sometimes we don’t exactly write for a general audience (we’ve been guilty of dropping jargon around this site too, I know, but we try), and even if you wanted to read most of what we do, you’d have to pay. Books are a relative bargain – you can get an academic paperback for $20-35 dollars. Articles are not a good deal in comparison: one-offs are around $25. We figured a free website would be one way to reach people, and I think we’ve tapped into an audience here.

Well, maybe’s got some more competition on the block, thanks to a great new policy from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, or SSHRC. SSHRC’s the federal granting agency that helps support research in Canada: historians apply to it with our project ideas, and generally around one in five of us get good news. That sounds low, and alarmingly it’s dropping, but it’s high enough that your average historian employed full-time at a university can hold out some hope that they’ll get it. All that is to say: SSHRC has some power, because they give us money, and money speaks.

When SSHRC talks, we’re forced to listen. And on Friday, February 27th, they spoke. And when SSHRC speaks, I tweet:

Big deal: all SSHRC-funded projects need to have peer-review publications open access within a year of publication.

It also applies to our science and engineering colleagues, who are funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and our health researcher colleagues who get their funds via the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). CIHR actually had an earlier version of this.