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The National Science Library at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) has been leading the way in the development of open access in China. Open access means the free (gratis) availability of peer-reviewed literature to the public on the internet, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, or link to the full texts of the articles (Budapest Open Access Initiative, 2002). There are two ways o achieve this; through open access journals and through institutional or subject-based repositories.
With a staff of over 470 and a collection about 11.5 million items, the National Science Library serves more than 100 CAS institutes in over 24 cities across China. The National Science Library is also leading national efforts to build a powerful National Scientific Information Infrastructure. As the key member of the National Science and Technology Library (NSTL), a consortium established in 2000 by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, it initiates strategic planning and system development projects for NSTL, organises dissemination of its resources to the public, and collaborates with major domestic and foreign libraries for resource sharing and research collaboration.
It is this focus on expanding the sharing of scholarship in the networked digital environment, as well as the emergence of new scholarly communication norms, that led to its participation in the open access movement. In 2003, the Chinese Academy of Sciences was the first Chinese institution to sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.
In June 2005, an International Conference on Policies and Strategies for Open Access to Scientific Information was hosted by the National Science Library, co-sponsored by eIFL, the Open Society Institute (OSI), the National Natural Science Foundation of China and NSTL. This key event, the first and only one so far on mainland China, brought together OA advocates, representatives from Chinese research funding agencies, major research institutions, libraries and open access publishers. In a bid to further promote OA to Chinese R&D institutes and funding agencies, CAS will host the Berlin8 Open Access conference in 2010. The value of increasing access to Chinese scientific output was recognised as two-fold. China's top researchers tended to publish in foreign subscription-only journals, often inaccessible to Chinese researchers. At the same time, the vast majority of the estimated 2,000 Chinese university journals were not indexed by any of the major indexing services, thus remaining hidden to researchers outside China.
CAS went about developing the technological infrastructure, while setting up supporting policy mechanisms. “We recognised early on that scholarly communication was taking a new turn, and new forces such as the open access movement and Google Scholar were creating a new information supply chain”, said Prof. Xiaolin Zhang, Executive Director of the National Science Library. “Combining the right technologies with the right policies was part of our strategy to tap into the new opportunities being created”.
The National Science Library (NSL) considered the development of a federated repository network, the CAS Institutional Repository Grid, to be an essential part of the strategy, based on the institutional repositories (IR) implemented in CAS institutes. The NSL-IR, designed as a best practice test-bed, became operational in February 2009. After eight months, over 2,100 items produced by NSL staff have been placed in the Knowledge Repository.
It became clear that strong policy support was necessary for a successful IR. An archiving policy was drawn up that led to the adoption of a mandate policy, that mandates NSL members to deposit articles in the NSL-IR within one month of publication. The articles submitted by NSL members are used as research indicators for staff annual performance reviews, which impacts on salary, tenure and promotion. According to ROARMAP (Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies), this is the first mandate policy in China. NSL has also drafted addendums and licenses, including Copyright Licence Addendums, a Conference Proceedings Archiving Licence and a Journal Archiving Licence, which serve as a test-bed for policy support mechanisms for the institutes. A marketing strategy to promote the building of an IR in each CAS institute has encouraged over 40 institutes to develop an IR. A Chinese Open Access Portal has been established to build capacity and to advocate for open access.
According to Prof. Xiaolin Zhang, subject librarians play a key role. `’On the one hand, they have trained the institute librarians in how to build and administer an IR. On the other hand, they have trained students and faculty staff in how to use an IR. At the same time, they have been instrumental in convincing the leaders of the institutes to provide policy and financial support for the IRs.” After a few short years, open access is firmly established in China.