Russell Group on BIS on Author Choice

The Director General of the UK’s Russell Group of universities, Wendy Piatt, responded as follows to the BIS Committee Recommendations on UK OA policy:

?We welcome the committee?s report, which highlights the vital role that ?green? open access can play as the UK moves towards full open access… [T]he committee rightly highlights that ?green? open access is a simple and cost-effective way of sharing research. We urge the Government to take note of the calls to reconsider its preference for ?gold? open access during the five year transition period.”
      ?However, we have real reservations about the committee?s recommendation to restrict embargo periods to six months for STEM subjects and 12 months for humanities, arts and social sciences. This will directly limit where researchers can publish, will constrain academic freedom and could potentially damage the international standing of UK universities.?

The substantive recommendations of the 2013 BIS Report (I, II) were:

1. that the Green OA deposit in the institutional repository should be immediate rather than delayed, whether or not Open Access to the deposit is embargoed by the publisher (during any OA embargo the repository’s eprint-request Button can then enable the author to fulfill individual user eprint requests automatically with one click each if deposit was immediate),

2. that an effective mechanism for monitoring and ensuring timely mandate compliance should be implemented, and

3. that Gold OA publishing should either no longer be preferred or hybrid Gold should no longer be funded.

The only bearing these three recommendations have on author freedom-of-choice of journal is that they restore it: Whereas Finch/RCUK’s current preference for publishing in Gold OA journals would have restricted author freedom of choice, BIS removes that restriction. Authors can publish in whatever journal they wish.

As to the BIS suggestion to reduce the maximum allowable Green OA embargo limit to 6-12 months from 12-24 months: the immediate-deposit mandate (plus the repository Button) largely moots this. As long as deposit is immediate, there would be nothing wrong with allowing an opt-out or waiver (as in the American opt-out mandate models, such as Harvard‘s) from the maximal embargo limit on an individual article basis, if the author demonstrates that it would restrict journal choice to have to comply with the embargo. The critical thing is that there should be no opt-out from immediate-deposit (which, if not immediately OA, has no bearing whatsoever on author freedom of choice of journals). Authors can publish in whatever journal they wish.