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Who Has Open Access Policies?
October 22, 2015

(Janet Camarena is the director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center.)

Did you know Open Access Week 2015 is happening now? Open Access Week aims to raise awareness about a potentially game changing idea:

“‘Open Access’ to information — the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need — has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.”  -Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

And it turns out this is a particularly timely alignment of a calendar spotlight and our future plans to enhance the “Who Has Glass Pockets?” template, which foundations may use to assess their institution’s transparency practices. When we established Glasspockets five years ago, we always thought the 23 indicators would change over time, and that time is coming.

Our approach with the indicators was never to view them as a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather as a road map to how individual foundations might chart their own journey to transparency using an inventory of current practice. The good news is that this inventory has expanded over the years, and many more foundations are now talking and thinking about transparency, and many are adding new kinds of openness that we want our assessment to encourage and reflect.

One of these budding areas of foundation transparency that seems to be gaining some traction recently is the movement toward open licensing policies in which foundations specify what can and cannot be done with intellectual property that the foundation produces and/or funds. Generally, an open license is one which grants permission to access, re-use, and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions.

For a field that focuses on investing in new solutions to complex issues, this seems a natural and necessary next step to spreading the knowledge produced from those investments, and ultimately creating a learning culture in philanthropy.  In our latest review of foundations which have used the Glasspockets assessment, 13% of them now have such policy statements on their websites, and most have just very recently added this to their websites, so there is reason to believe that this will continue to grow.

Of the 77 foundations that have taken and publicly shared our “Who Has Glass Pockets?” assessment, we were able to identify at least 10 of them that have policies around open access, open licensing, or open content.  They include the following foundations: Ford; Bill and Melinda Gates; J. Paul Getty Trust; William and Flora Hewlett; JRS Biodiversity; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur; Gordon and Betty Moore; Charles Stewart Mott; David and Lucile Packard; and Alfred P. Sloan.

So, what does open access actually mean, why does it matter, and what exactly are open licensing policies? And how does this relate to the movement around open repositories? A series of blog posts from IssueLab this week has these answers covered in the links below.

Isn’t Our Research Already Free? Why Open Access Matters for the Social Sector

Steps to Open Access: Open Licensing

Steps to Open Access: Open Repositories

And for those of you who have used the "Who Has Glass Pockets?" assessment, be on the lookout for the addition of the Open Licensing Policy element in early 2016. You now have advance notice so you can start exploring this aspect of increasing philanthropic openness. We will also be adding a couple of other new elements to the profile, so watch this space for other coming changes.

--Janet Camarena


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About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the GlassPockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Candid highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Candid.

    Questions, comments, and inquiries relating to guest blog posts may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Senior Director of Candid Learning