The UK Gold Rush: "A Hand-Out from the British Government"

Re: Finch access plan unlikely to fly across the Atlantic
(Times Higher Education, 6 December 2012)

It’s not just the US and the Social Sciences that will not join the UK’s Gold Rush. Neither will Europe, nor Australia, nor the developing world.

The reason is simple: The Finch/RCUK/BIS policy was not thought through. It was hastily and carelessly cobbled together without proper representation from the most important stake-holders: researchers and their institutions, the providers of the research to which access is to be opened.

Instead, Finch/RCUK/BIS heeded the lobbying from the UK’s sizeable research publishing industry, including both subscription publishers and Gold OA publishers, as well as from a private biomedical research funder that was rather too sure of its own OA strategy (even though that strategy has not so far been very successful). BIS was also rather simplistic about the “industrial applications” potential of its 6% of world research output, not realizing that unilateral OA from one country is of limited usefulness, and a globally scaleable OA policy requires some global thinking and consultation.

Now it will indeed amount to “a handout from the British government” — a lot of money in exchange for very little OA — unless (as I still fervently hope) RCUK has the wisdom and character to fix its OA mandate as it has by now been repeatedly urged from all sides to do, instead of just digging in to a doomed policy:

Adopt an effective mechanism to ensure compliance with the mandate to self-archive in UK institutional repositories (Green OA), in collaboration with UK institutions. And scale down the Gold OA to just the affordable minimum for which there is a genuine demand, instead of trying to force it down the throats of all UK researchers in place of cost-free self-archiving: The UK institutional repositories are already there: ready, waiting — and empty.