BIS Largesse in the UK: A Trojan Horse for Open Access

UK Government invests £10 million to help universities move to open access

At first, UK researchers will applaud: “More money for us [sort of]! Hurrah!”

Then they will think: “But that money could have been spent on funding more research, of which there is already too little to go round — and it’s probably being taken from the same pot…”

And then they will realize that:

– they are being steered toward journals they don’t want to publish in,

– forced to pay for an OA that they could have had with just a few gratis Green keystrokes,

– forced to reach into their grants (or pockets!) when the 10M pounds run out,

(since the UK, although it produces only 6% of the articles published annually worldwide, produces a lot more than what £10M will pay for at (say) £1K per paper for Gold OA publishing fees: do the arithmetic, even assuming that the world publishes only a million refereed research journal papers per year, and then see how far £10M takes you for the UK’s 60K papers at £1K for Gold OA fees per paper: a six-fold shortfall)

– and that not only is the UK gaining no more OA to the other 94% of research from the rest of the world, to which UK researchers need OA,

– but that the UK’s shift from mandating cost-free Green OA self-archiving to paying publishers extra for pricey Gold OA to UK research alone

is actually making it harder for the rest of the world to mandate and provide the reciprocal cost-free Green OA that everyone needs…

The BIS’s largesse would just be another case of (mostly) wasted public funds (a bigger problem, which is not our main concern here) if it weren’t coupled with the completely gratuitous and self-injurious undermining of a virtually cost-free means of achieving the same local end — and also achieving far more, globally, in an affordable, scaleable and sustainable way.

But all of this would be fixed, if one 9-word clause were expunged from the new RCUK OA policy: the one forcing researchers to choose Gold over Green. For then this BIS largesse would just be a hand-out to pay for Gold OA (voluntarily) for 10K UK research papers: 1/6th of the UK’s annual research output.

Stevan Harnad