Appended after my own overview below is a focused and insightful posting by Fred Friend: As RCUK re-thinks its policy draft, and makes the requisite corrections to ensure that all papers are deposited in an OA repository (Green OA), RCUK should on no account emulate the Wellcome Trust’s policy of (1) paying publishers to deposit in the (2) Europe (formerly UK) PubMed Central Repository.
(1) The parties bound by an RCUK OA mandate are RCUK fundees, not publishers. Deposit itself (Green OA) should be a requirement, as a condition of RCUK funding, to be performed by the fundee, not something extra (Gold OA), to be paid extra for, and performed by, a 3rd party, the publisher.
In other words, deposit is self-archiving, by the funded. Moreover, verification of fundee compliance with the RCUK Green OA requirement can and should be focused on the fundee, not on a 3rd party that is not bound to comply with RCUK funding conditions, but simply paid for a product.
The incoherence of the present RCUK OA policy – a direct legacy of the Wellcome policy that RCUK is obviously using as its model — is, as usual, the result of conflating Gold and Green OA, and putting all the emphasis on Gold OA. This policy definitely has not been an unmitigated success for the Wellcome Trust and is certainly not scalable to all of UK research, for all the reasons Fred mentions below (and many more besides). The Wellcome model should not be imitated by RCUK.
(2) Europe (formerly UK) PubMed Central (EPMC) is an OA collection of European biomedical articles. That’s fine. Let there be many such OA subject collections, in many fields, and also global collections, across multiple fields, and across multiple countries. But such collections should on no account be the locus of direct deposit for authors complying with RCUK (or EU or US or individual institutions’) self-archiving mandates.
The locus of deposit for complying — once, and only once — with either funder or institutional OA mandates should be the author’s own institutional OA repository, from which central and global collections can then harvest. This engages institutions in monitoring and ensuring the compliance of their own researchers with both funder and institutional OA self-archiving mandates (Green OA), and it keeps publishers (and publisher payment for Gold OA, a separate matter) out of the loop.
(If an author wishes to pay to publish in a Gold OA journal, and has the funds to do it, that’s fine. Then the Gold OA version can be the one the author deposits, rather than just the author’s peer-reviewed final draft. But the deposit is in any case done by the author, in the author’s institutional repository; and the compliance with the deposit mandate is monitored and verified by the author’s institution, whether the mandate is from RCUK or from the institution itself, or both.)
To understand the dynamics, remember that no one deposits anything directly in Google: Google (and Yahoo, etc.) harvest from local websites. That’s exactly the way it needs to be for central subject-based or country-based OA collections too, for the sake of compliance-verification by the RCUK fundee’s institution and funder and to ensure that authors only ever have to self-archive their papers once: institutional deposit, automatically harvestable by (multiple) central collections (e.g. EPMC).
?Admitting that RCUK was “thinking about” mandatory repository deposit, Mr Thorley said that one idea was to expand the Europe (formerly UK) PubMed Central repository, which currently covers only biomedicine, to encompass all subjects to help publishers automate deposits.? [Mark Thorley of RCUK quoted in an article by Paul Jump in ?Times Higher Education? of 4 October 2012.\
I wonder whose idea this was! I can make one or two guesses, but whoever suggested it, it is a bad idea! I welcomed the development of UK PubMed Central, until the point when Wellcome Trust started to pay some publishers to make the deposit on behalf of authors and funders. I do not know whether Wellcome will disclose the sums paid to publishers, but my impression is that whatever is being paid more than covers the cost of making the deposit and is in effect a payment to publishers for open access and re-use rights. When people I know who are not in academia ask me about my work and I explain that I am working for open access to taxpayer-funded research, this is welcomed by whoever I am speaking to ? until I say that many publishers are asking to be paid by taxpayers for making articles open access, at which point the welcome from my listener turns to incredulity. Even more incredulity if I mention the level of payments being requested for APCs. So, if RCUK were to go down the road of paying publishers to deposit in Europe PubMed Central, they should be prepared for challenges on such a mis-use of public money, especially if the deposit payment were to be in addition to the payment of an APC. Presumably the existing funders of UKPMC ? some of them charities ? would also expect a contribution from the non-biomedical RCs towards the high cost of running Europe PMC. This ?idea? could cost a lot of money.
I suspect that there will also be objections from subject groups who see their repository needs as being very different from those of the biomedical community. How many times in my long career have I heard that other such all-embracing proposals will not work for subject x or y! UKPMC is a wonderful service for the biomedical community, a service for which they are prepared to pay and have the resources to pay, but its design will not fit all subjects without major modification. Already I hear some concern about the undue influence of the biomedical community and Wellcome in particular upon the Finch Report and thus upon Government policy. The suspicion is that the open access policy of the Wellcome Trust, which works very well for the Trust and for the biomedical community, is being adopted for all UK research outputs without consideration of the way the Trust?s open access decisions can be applied within other very different academic structures.
RCUK: please think again! It is good that you are considering mandatory repository deposit, but there are other repositories which can provide better value for the service you need.