Nature News Blog: Key questions in the UK’s shift to open-access research : Nature News Blog 2012-05-08


“Soon, we’ll all be reading publicly funded UK research free of charge... The way it will work is simple: the agencies that support UK scientists will require them to make their research papers free. They’ve required this since 2006; but now they’re going to enforce it. Beyond a draft policy document from Research Councils UK... While everyone waits for a June report from a government-commissioned working group chaired by sociologist Janet Finch, UK science minister David Willetts laid out some of these key issues yesterday (2 May) in a speech to the UK Publishers Association that’s worth reading in full... They relate to open-access models, costs, what happens to publishers and the weirdness of what will happen if the United Kingdom switches and other countries don’t follow. These issues are familiar old chestnuts to the experts, so Willetts also added a little teaser of his own: what does Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales have to do with all this? ... The first issue: will research papers be instantly open or will publishers get to impose a delay? Right now, some non-open-access publications let authors put up a free copy of the published manuscript after an embargo period. This is the embargoed version of what is called ‘green’ open access (there are plenty of other ‘colours’, and the UK University of Nottingham’s SHERPA/RoMEO service maintains a comprehensive list of every publisher’s policy.) Both the Wellcome Trust and RCUK open-access policies now permit this embargo, with a 6-month delay. At the same time, the Wellcome Trust’s Robert Kiley says that he would prefer making papers open immediately, with ‘gold’ open access — the catch being that gold-style publishers ask authors to pay them upfront per paper to recover lost subscription revenues. (The Wellcome Trust gives its researchers money to do this; at the moment, 55% of Wellcome Trust-funded researchers obey its open-access requirement; of those, 85% go gold). So, is it green or gold for the United Kingdom? Willetts is waiting for the Finch report, but grapevine indications are that the recommendation will be for a mixed, green–gold model... The question of green versus gold leads directly to issues around costs. Green works under the current model, in which university libraries pay subscriptions to publishers. But in gold, researchers would pay publishers directly for opening up access to their papers. How much? Kiley says that, based on a sample of 4,000 papers funded by the Wellcome Trust for gold open access, publishers are asking authors for US$2,500 per paper on average, ranging from $675 at crystallography journals to $5,000 for Cell Reports. Thus, if the 120,000 UK papers were all made free upfront, that process would cost $300 million* a year. That sounds a lot, but of course libraries may be paying just as much or more now in subscription and other fees; overall, it is less than 1% of what the country as a whole splashes out on research and development spending (£26.4 billion in 2010, according to the Office of National Statistics). 4 May update: In the comment thread below, David Prosser, from Research Libraries UK, points out that an analysis last year of the financial implications of a move to Open Access found that if the average price for a paper were £1995 ($3000), then the UK’s transition to gold open access would be cost-neutral overall. For research agencies, the question is how much they would have to set aside from grants to pay for open-access publication. An example can be taken from the Wellcome Trust. That agency’s £650-million ($1-billion) annual research budget produces 5,000 papers, says Kiley. If all those papers were made free upfront, that would cost $12.5 million — or 1.25% of the total research budget. RCUK is working with similar assumptions. A confusing situation will arise if the United Kingdom goes open access and other countries don’t follow. As Willetts said: ‘In future we could be giving our research articles to the world for free via open access. But will we still have to pay for foreign journals and research carried out abroad?’ Basically, British universities could end up paying twice — once to make their research open access, and again for subscriptions to the journals that they will still need to buy ... As Willetts puts it: ‘If so, there would be a clear shift in the balance of funding of research between countries.’ And so, he said, he’d be encouraging international action, and was talking to the European Commission for a start. Willetts also noted that in the United States,  the US Committee on Economic Development advocates building on the existing (green) open-access mandate of the National Institutes of Health. His speech hasn’t gone unnoticed across the pond: on his blog Pasco Phronesis, US science-policy analyst David Bruggeman said that the United Kingdom could challenge the United States for global leadership on open access. Just being able to read a free PDF isn’t actually open access. Scientists need to be allowed to content-mine the research literature with computers, using programs to pull out informati



08/16/2012, 06:08

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Tags: oa.business_models oa.mining oa.comment oa.government oa.mandates oa.usa oa.nih oa.libraries oa.harvesting oa.costs oa.funders oa.fees oa.wellcome oa.embargoes oa.rcuk oa.recommendations oa.compliance oa.wikipedia oa.preprints oa.publishers_association oa.finch_report oa.economics_of oa.sherpa.romeo oa.europe oa.repositories oa.policies oa.versions oa.journals



Date tagged:

05/08/2012, 07:31

Date published:

05/04/2012, 22:54