Open access body needed ‘to coordinate implementation’

A formal body should be set up to coordinate efforts to implement open access, the Finch Group has recommended.

The proposal is the main conclusion of the group’s review, published on November 18, of progress in implementing its original June 2012 report, which was commissioned by the government and forms the basis of the UK’s open-access policy.

The review, titled Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications, follows a reconvention in September of the group, which includes representatives from universities, libraries, publishers and research funders. 

The review says that although “significant” progress has been made on implementing the original report, with both Research Councils UK and the Higher Education Funding Council for England adopting open-access mandates, efforts are needed to coordinate ongoing efforts.

The coordinating body will be run by Universities UK with a remit to “avoid duplication of effort and divergent work-streams; to deal with problems as they arise; to develop an interoperable system of repositories and an infrastructure that supports both Gold and Green OA; to monitor the impact of OA policies on learned societies; to co-ordinate communications with the research community; and to oversee the collection and analysis of data from different parties in order to create the evidence base that is essential to the further development of effective policies.”

It reemphasises the view expressed in the original report that the UK should seek to achieve a long-term conversion to journal-provided gold open access via a “mixed economy” of gold, repository-provided green open access and a greater availability of subscription journals to those outside HE by licensing extensions.

“Within that context we saw Gold OA primarily funded by APCs [article processing charges] as ultimately delivering most successfully against our criteria, although we did not recommend a rapid transition,” the review says. Rather, it says, the transition will last “for the foreseeable future”.

The review avoids suggesting, as the original report controversially did, that the primary role of repositories should be to host “grey literature” and data, rather than papers. But it reiterates the group’s call for funds to be made available to pay gold article fees.

“This does not imply favouring gold to the exclusion of green. Rather, it is the essential means of creating balance within the mixed economy…for green is already being funded by subscriptions and by support for repositories,” it says.

It notes that many universities have adopted an explicit preference for green on the grounds that the article fees often associated with gold will add to their expenditure. It calls on Jisc, funders and publishers to work together to “consider whether, and how, expenditures and revenues for APCs and journal subscriptions might be offset against each other”, though “all parties recognise both the significance and complexity of these issues”. The original report estimated the additional costs to the sector during the transition period to be up between £50 and £60 million a year.

The review calls on the government to pump-prime schemes to extend licensed access to research papers to small businesses and charities, on which progress has been “limited” so far.

On the controversial issue of whether the use of Creative Commons CC-BY licences should be mandated for gold open access papers in order to facilitate text and data mining – as RCUK requires – the review says only that “careful monitoring” is required.

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