How to Immunize RCUK Against Predictable Perverse Effects of Finch Folly

Thursday July 26 2012

SH: If you were a journal publisher? what would you do, when faced with a policy like [Finch/RCUK]?

RP: What do you predict?

SH: The answer is obvious: You would offer to ?allow? your authors to pay you for hybrid Gold OA (while continuing to collect your usual subscription revenues) and, for good measure, you would ratchet up the Green OA embargo length (up to the date your grand-children finished their university education!) to make sure your authors pay you for hybrid Gold rather than picking the cost-free option that you fear might eventually pose a risk to your subscription revenues!

Monday December 10 2012

Institute of Historical Research: Statement on position in relation to open access:

“[IHR] fully support initiatives to make scholarship as widely and freely available as possible, above all online…  The government wants all RCUK funded and all QR funded scholarship to be published ?gold? insofar as funding allows. This would mean that an author (through their university) would pay an ?article processing charge? (APC) to the journal… The government also envisages ?green? open access… This means that no fee is paid by the author to a journal. Instead, the article must be made freely available on line after an embargo period.If gold access is not offered by the journal, that period could be as little as 6 to 12 months. In the case of humanities, the government is prepared to accept a longer [embargo] period, perhaps around 2 years, particularly if the journal concerned also offers gold open access…  We want first to make it clear that we will accept gold APCs… The period of embargo [IHR] will offer [for green] will be 36 MONTHS…”


All is far from lost, however. There is a simple way that funder mandates can immunize themselves against such perverse consequences. They need only include the following 8 essential conditions: 

(1)  immediate-deposit (even if access to the deposit is allowed to be embargoed: no delayed deposit)  

(2) of the final peer-reviewed draft 

(3) on the date of acceptance by the journal (which is marked by a verifiable calendar date)

(4) and the immediate-deposit must be directly in the author’s own institutional repository (not institution-external)

(5) so that immediate-deposit can be monitored and verified by the author’s institution (regardless of whether the mandate is from a funder or the institution)  

(6) as a funding compliance condition and/or an institutional employment condition

(7) and the institutional repository must be designated as the sole locus for submitting publications for institutional performance evaluation, research grant applications and national research assessment.

(8) Repository deposits must be monitored so as to generate rich and visible metrics of usage and citation, so as both to verify and reward authors for deposit and to showcase and archive the institution’s and funder’s research output and impact; for embargoed deposits, user needs can be fulfilled via the repository’s email-eprint-request Button.

An instance of such mutually reinforcing funder and institutional policies is the FRS-FNRS policy in Belgium.

Such an integrated, maximized-strength mandate model immunizes against publisher embargoes and should be adopted, complementarily and convergently, by all institutions and funders, in Europe and worldwide.

Here is the fundamental point that needs to be grasped: The only thing that is standing between the world and 100% OA is author keystrokes (for depositing the full text in an online repository). Once those keystrokes are done, even if some of those deposits are under an access embargo, nature and human nature will take its course, under pressure from the increasingly palpable benefits of OA, and embargoes will soon die their inevitable and well-deserved deaths of natural causes — and journals will survive, and evolve, and adapt.

But it will take forever to happen if the keystrokes are not mandated. Journals will try to filibuster and embargo OA for as long as possible: it’s a conflict of interest, between, on the one hand, research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, the R&D industry, and the tax-payers who fund the research, and, on the other hand, the research publishing industry.

Scholarly research is not funded and conducted as a service to the scholarly publishing industry (regardless of whether the publishers are commercial or “scholarly”, and regardless of whether they are subscription publishers or Gold OA publishers).

It is time to stop allowing the publishing tail wag the research dog.

Mandating the Green OA keystrokes (even where embargoed) is the fastest, cheapest and surest way to get us to 100% Green OA — and then all Gold OA, Libre OA will not be far behind.

But trying ins tea to mandate Gold OA preemptively as the Finch Committee have perversely proposed to do, under the influence of the publishing industry lobby, will only serve leave the UK, the former leader of the global OA movement, far behind.

Stevan Harnad