The Finch Report on open access: it’s complicated 2012-06-22


“A committee set up by government was never going to foment a revolution. And so it has proved to be. The recommendations of the Finch Report released today mark a cautious, measured step in the right direction, but it is nevertheless a significant one. It starts out promisingly, recognising that although established modes of publishing have served science well for a long time, “the internet has brought profound change across all sectors of society and the economy, transforming interactions and relationships, reducing costs, sparking innovation, and overturning established modes of business...” Perhaps the most important statement in the summary enshrines the key to the ongoing debate: ‘The principle that the results of research that has been publicly funded should be freely accessible in the public domain is a compelling one, and fundamentally unanswerable.’ That sounds like an excellent starting point. But the committee has had to grapple with the complexities of the associated issues... Their summary is worth quoting in full ... ‘First, there are tensions between the interests of key stakeholders in the research communications system... Second, there are potential risks to each of the key groups of players in the transition to open access: rising costs or shrinking revenues, and inability to sustain high-quality services to authors and readers... Third, research and its communication is a global endeavour. Measures to promote open access need to be similarly international in scope if they are to deliver their full potential. The UK has played a leading role in promoting open access, but there are limits to what the UK can achieve alone... Fourth, is the question of cost...’ In the period of transition there are bound to be additional costs as both systems exist side by side. Some of these points may rankle with those in the vanguard of open access but they seem to me to reflect important concerns of the wider scientific community, especially those embedded in scientific societies. I remain hopeful that some of the difficulties on the issue of cost can be addressed by the advent of innovative and nimble publishing solutions, but we shall see. The committee’s understanding of the nature of the problem has clearly informed its recommendations. They are a mixed bag ... Points i-iii look good: clear support for gold open access with proper funding mechanisms...via... modes that permit text-mining. Point v, on walk-in access journals in libraries for the general public continues to make no sense to me in the age of the internet (now concurrent with an age of austerity that is seeing the closure of libraries across the UK). Point ix on institutional repositories will represent a significant advance only if they can be properly linked and indexed via the web. It remains to be seen if publishers will comply with this; at present they resist such added value. And finally, point x appears to suggest that the committee has shied away from laying down a recommendation on the embargo period for papers published via green open access (where no Author Processing Charge is paid)... I think — and hope it is not wishful thinking — that the committee has been wily enough to read the runes and push just hard enough at a door that is opening. I was struck by their analysis of the cost implications ‘…one of the advantages of open access publishing is that it brings greater transparency about the costs, and the price, of publication and dissemination. The measures we recommend will bring greater competition on price as well as the status of the journals in which researchers wish to publish. We therefore expect market competition to intensify, and that universities and funders should be able to use their power as purchasers to bear down on the costs to them both of APCs and of subscriptions.’ These are arguments that have appeared more than once on my blog so it was heartening to see them echoed in the report. The step forward is smaller than many might have hoped for but all in all the report represents a positive move towards the goal of full open access. There is the realistic appreciation that a shift to open access will not happen overnight, even now. But it is coming...”



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.policies oa.comment oa.government oa.libraries oa.fees oa.embargoes oa.recommendations oa.finch_report oa.repositories oa.journals



Date tagged:

06/22/2012, 22:30

Date published:

06/22/2012, 23:43