17 July 2012

Open Access

The UK Universities and Science Minister has announced acceptance of some recommendations in last month's report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings (aka the Finch Report on open access) promoted as giving "Academics, businesses and the public" "easier access to publicly funded research" and as "likely to see a major increase in the number of taxpayer funded research papers freely available to the public".

No hoopla, of course, about ongoing cuts to the UK education sector.

The report argued that improving the flows of the information and knowledge produced by researchers will promote -
- enhanced transparency, openness and accountability, and public engagement with research; 
- closer linkages between research and innovation, with benefits for public policy and services, and for economic growth; 
- improved efficiency in the research process itself, through increases in the amount of information that is readily accessible, reductions in the time spent in finding it, and greater use of the latest tools and services to organise, manipulate and analyse it; and 
- increased returns on the investments made in research, especially the investments from public funds.
As a consequence it recommended that -
  •  a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded; 
  • the Research Councils and other public sector bodies funding research in the UK should – following the Wellcome Trust’s initiative in this area but recognizing the specific natures of different funding streams - establish more effective and flexible arrangements to meet the costs of publishing in open access and hybrid journals; 
  • support for open access publication should be accompanied by policies to minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use, especially for non- commercial purposes, and on the ability to use the latest tools and services to organise and manipulate text and other content; 
  • during the period of transition to open access publishing worldwide, in order to maximise access in the HE and health sectors to journals and articles produced by authors in the UK and from across the world that are not accessible on open access terms, funds should be found to extend and rationalise current licences to cover all the institutions in those sectors; 
  • the current discussions on how to implement the proposal for walk-in access to the majority of journals to be provided in public libraries across the UK should be pursued with vigour, along with an effective publicity and marketing campaign; 
  • representative bodies for key sectors including central and local Government, voluntary organisations, and businesses, should work together with publishers, learned societies, libraries and others with relevant expertise to consider the terms and costs of licences to provide access to a broad range of relevant content for the benefit of consortia of organisations within their sectors; and how such licences might be funded; 
  •  future discussions and negotiations between universities and publishers (including learned societies) on the pricing of big deals and other subscriptions should take into account the financial implications of the shift to publication in  open access and hybrid journals, of extensions to licensing, and the resultant changes in revenues provided to publishers; 
  • universities, funders, publishers, and learned societies should continue to work together to promote further experimentation in open access publishing for scholarly monographs; 
  • the infrastructure of subject and institutional repositories should be developed so that they play a valuable role complementary to formal publishing, particularly in providing access to research data and to grey literature, and in digital preservation;
  • funders’ limitations on the length of embargo periods, and on any other restrictions on access to content not published on open access terms, should be considered carefully, to avoid undue risk to valuable journals that are not funded in the main by APCs. Rules should be kept under review in the light of the available evidence as to their likely impact on such journals.
The Government has accepted recommendations about -
  • moving to deliver open access through a ‘gold’ model, where article processing charges are paid upfront to cover the cost of publication. 
  • itroducing 'walk-in rights' for the general public, so they can have free access to global research publications owned by members of the UK Publishers’ Association via public libraries. 
  • extending the licensing of access enjoyed by universities to high technology businesses for a modest charge.
The UK Department for Business, Innovation & Skills claims that -
Currently most formally published research is only available behind restricted paywalls. Reforms will see publications opened up to a greater audience, providing more opportunities for research and development across a range of sectors. They will also support the commercial exploitation of research, contributing to the Government’s economic growth agenda. 
 The Minister similarly boasts that -
 Removing paywalls that surround taxpayer funded research will have real economic and social benefits. It will allow academics and businesses to develop and commercialise their research more easily and herald a new era of academic discovery. This development will provide exciting new opportunities and keep the UK at the forefront of global research to drive innovation and growth. 
The Higher Education Funding Council for England is reportedly developing proposals to make open access published research the basis for the Research Excellence Framework after 2014.