Re: RCUK policy on open access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 18:22:14 +0100

3 Excerpts from Peter Suber's Open Access News

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 11:48:11 -0400
From: Peter Suber
To: SPARC Open Access Forum <>

Aisha Labi, British Research Group Calls for More-Liberal Open-Access
Policy Than NIH Supports, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 29, 2005
(accessible only to subscribers).

Excerpt: 'The umbrella organization for Britain's public research
institutions issued a draft policy on Tuesday that strongly endorses free
and prompt public access to research they have sponsored. The draft calls
for publications that result from work financed by Britain's research
councils after October 1 to be put in an open-access repository "at the
earliest opportunity, wherever possible at or around the time of
publication, in accordance with copyright and licensing arrangements."

The proposal was published by Research Councils UK, commonly known as the
RCUK, a partnership formed by Britain's eight government-financed research
councils. The councils represent scientists as well as researchers in
engineering, the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences.

"It is an evolving policy, and this is just a starting point," said Astrid
Wissenburg, a historian on the Economic and Social Research Council and
the interim head of a committee that formulated the draft policy. "We
felt it was time for us to take a position and encourage open and easy
access to research output for everyone. The purpose of the policy is
really to encourage scientists and researchers in the U.K. to deposit
materials in archives when they have a right to do so," Ms. Wissenburg
said. "If they have signed an agreement with a publisher that either
restricts them completely or gives a time restriction -- for example,
if the publisher says they are only allowed to deposit their work in six
months -- then they can wait six months. So the phrase 'at the earliest
opportunity' means when someone is legally allowed to do so. We're not
overruling any agreement publishers have in place with authors."

Advocates for open access welcomed the RCUK proposal. "It's a marvelous
policy and very strong in almost all the right ways," said Peter Suber,
a professor of philosophy at Earlham College, in Indiana, and a leader in
the open-access movement. "It's a big step forward from the NIH policy,
which merely requests, but does not mandate open access, and as a result
is not likely to get full compliance."

...Ms. Wissenburg conceded that the RCUK exception -- allowing for delay
because of copyright and licensing restrictions -- might create an
incentive for publishers to begin imposing such restrictions on authors, as
a way of dictating when their work could be placed in open-access

Based on the NIH experience, Mr. Suber is certain of the outcome. "With
the NIH policy, we've seen that publishers are requesting [PS: I said
"requiring"] embargoes," he said. "They're saying, If you don't comply,
we won't publish you. We'll see the same thing with the RCUK unless the
language is tightened up before it's made final." Another element of the
RCUK draft that will come under scrutiny during the public-comment period
is a phrase that says there is "no obligation to set up a repository
where none exists at present."

Michael Fraser, coordinator of the Research Technologies Service at
the University of Oxford, said that language is a way of letting
institutions off the hook for the responsibility of establishing
open-access repositories. He would rather see a policy that encourages
recipients of public funds to spend part of that money on setting up
and running an institutional repository.'


More on the RCUK draft policy

Richard Wray, Funding aid for open access, The Guardian, June 29, 2005.,9865,1517116,00.html

Excerpt: 'The drive to make publicly funded academic research available
for free received a boost yesterday as the leading public investors in
research proposed mandating researchers to put their writings on the internet.
Research Councils UK (RCUK), which brings together the eight councils,
wants to make it a condition of grants that researchers put work they have
funded in freely-available online archives as soon as possible. The RCUK
said its proposal, which will apply to all new grants awarded after October
1 this year, is just a starting point as the technology involved in
publishing scientific research on the web is still evolving. The councils
will also encourage researchers who received their grants before October to
make their articles available. The move will be seen as a dramatic victory
for proponents of open access to academic research and follows calls from a
committee of MPs last year for more research to be available without charge
on the internet.'


More on the RCUK draft policy

Donald MacLeod, Research councils back free online access, The Guardian,
June 29, 2005.  (Thanks to Pablo Stafforini.),3605,1517384,00.html

Excerpt: 'Thousands of British academics in every subject from art
history to zoology will soon be required to make their research freely
available online, the UK research councils have announced. The move
flies in the face of government reluctance to offend the publishing
industry and is a victory for proponents of open access to research
findings. By making free access a condition of grants, the research
councils, which control billions of pounds worth of funding, hope to give
British research more impact worldwide as it is taken up and cited by
other researchers. University libraries will benefit from an easing of
the financial pressure to acquire more, and ever more expensive, journals
as scholars can consult research for free.

The UK is now said to lead the world in open access policy, but today
the Publishers' Association raised the alarm, accusing the research
councils of going "too far, too fast" without properly costing their
proposals. International publishers, who lobbied hard against attempts
by MPs to push open access pilots, are watching the research councils'
moves closely....

Today, some academics said they feared the research councils had left
a loophole by saying that the condition would be dropped if there was
no repository available. To date there are 55 open access repositories
in the UK (including 34 universities and departments) . The majority of
institutions have yet to set one up.

But Stevan Harnad, of Southampton University, a leading advocate of
open access, said he was confident the loophole would be plugged. "Not
only does the UK have the second largest absolute number of open access
archives [after the US], as well as one of the world's largest relative
number, but once it has the RCUK policy too, it will also have the world's
'fullest' open access archives," he said...

Graham Taylor, director of academic publishing at the Publishers'
Association, said repositories could never be a channel for formal
publishing because they did not have the peer review or editorial input of
journals. All journals were experimenting with new forms of publication
and it would be a mistake for the research councils to try to impose one
particular solution. "Things are being forced too far, too fast without a
full understanding of what is involved here," he said. Mr Taylor added
that the costs of repositories were being seriously underestimated and
they could prove unsustainable in practice.'

Comment. Three quick replies to Graham Taylor.

    (1) No one claims that the kind of OA archiving required by the
    RCUK policy should replace peer review. On the contrary, the policy
    is explicit about the importance of peer review (Paragraph 18) and
    only applies to articles that have been published in peer-reviewed
    journals or presented at conferences (Paragraph 14.b).

    (2) The RCUK policy rests on a very "full understanding of what is
    involved here." See the report of the House of Commons Science and
    Technology Committee, based on six months of inquiry, four rounds
    of public hearings, and hundreds of written comments. The Research
    Councils have consciously built on the House committee report
    (Paragraphs 4, 24).

    (3) What is unsustainable is the cost of access *without* OA archives
    and OA journals.

Scientific Publications: Free for All? Report of the House of Commons
Science and Technology Committee (July 20, 2004)


Peter Suber
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Author, SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Editor, Open Access News blog
Received on Wed Jun 29 2005 - 18:22:14 BST

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