What would be the implications of a ‘gold’ Open Access REF policy? | Ben Johnson
"Earlier this year, HEFCE and its sister funding councils announced a new policy for Open Access (OA) in relation to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF is a periodic exercise to assess the research undertaken by UK HE institutions, assessing the quality of research outputs (such as publications, performances, and software), the impact of this research on wider society, and the health of the research environment in institutions within which research takes place. Scores are given for each ‘unit of assessment’ (disciplinary area) submitted by an institution, and these scores drive research funding for that institution for the following years. A lot of money flows to institutions as a result of this exercise. The big number is the £1.6bn per year that HEFCE allocates in quality-related research (QR) funding to English institutions, and further funding is provided to institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by their respective national HE funding bodies. The REF scores are also used to calculate how several hundred million pounds in research capital grants are allocated to institutions in England, and the scores are used by institutions and others for comparative analysis in league tables. It is safe to say that this exercise is a very big deal for institutions in the UK. The policy for OA was introduced after an intensive, unique, two-staged, UK-wide consultation exercise, undertaken over a period of roughly 18 months. The consultation firstly sought views on how the REF might introduce a requirement that outputs submitted to the next REF (expected towards the end of this decade) be published or made available as OA. The overwhelming view was expressed that it would be inappropriate, as well as financially unviable, for the REF to expect authors and their institutions to make outputs available via the ‘gold’ route. The funding councils instead consulted on and implemented a policy that is much ‘greener’ in nature: a requirement that journal articles and conference papers be deposited in an institutional or subject repository and made available for read/download after any embargo had elapsed ..."
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