Public Clarification Needed: Does RCUK Have a Plan B?

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 8 Oct 2005 19:02:35 +0100

    Prior AmSci Topic Threads:

    "Please Don't Copy-Cat Clone NIH-12 Non-OA Policy!"

    "Open Access vs. NIH Back Access and Nature's Back-Sliding"

Is the ALPSP announcement (reproduced at the end of this message from
Peter Suber's Open Access News) really true? Has ALPSP indeed been
privately promised veto/embargo power over RCUK Policy?

I very much hope the ALPSP announcement is not true, and that ALPSP is
again vastly overstating its case, because otherwise it sounds as if RCUK
has effectively agreed to make the RCUK policy conditional on whether and
when each publisher agrees. If that were true it would mean that the RCUK
self-archiving policy was even weaker than the deeply flawed NIH policy --
indeed, that the RCUK policy was no policy, mandate or requirement at all,
but merely a pointer to each publisher's policy.

The optimal RCUK policy would of course be:

    Plan A: to mandate *both* (1) depositing the full text and metadata
    immediately upon acceptance for publication *and* (2) setting
    full-text access as Open-Access immediately upon acceptance for

But if RCUK feels it cannot mandate that, the next best thing is certainly:

    Plan B: to mandate (1) depositing the full text and metadata
    immediately upon acceptance for publication and to also *strongly
    recommend* (2) setting full-text access as Open-Access immediately
    upon acceptance for publication. (In the case of the <10% of journals
    that have not yet given OA self-archiving their green light, full-text
    access can be set as Institution-Internal-Access, and external eprint
    requests to the author -- based on the immediate webwide visibility
    and accessibility of the OAI metadata -- can be made and filled by
    email for the time being.)

Plan B would immediately remove the RCUK policy from the reach of
the ALPSP lobby completely, because only deposit would be mandated,
whereas OA access-setting would merely be recommended. Nothing else would
then need to be stipulated at all in the RCUK policy -- about publisher
policy, copyright or embargoes.

To instead build into the RCUK policy a veto and embargo power at each
publisher's discretion would be counterproductive in the extreme, not
only for the RCUK policy's capacity to provide OA to British research
output, but for its capacity to serve as a model for other nations that
are closely watching what RCUK will do, and likely to emulate it.

We need further public clarification on this from RCUK. Otherwise
ALPSP's public claim below -- if uncontested by RCUK -- to having
already received RCUK's agreement to publisher veto and embargo power
over whether and when the full-text deposit is made will cause negative
ripples worldwide through rumour alone, giving the impression that there
is in fact no RCUK self-archiving policy at all, but simply a deferral
to whatever policy each publisher may or may not happen to have on
the matter.

    From Peter Suber's Open Access News

    ALPSP meeting with the RCUK

   On September 16, the ALPSP met with representatives of the RCUK to
   discuss publisher objections to the draft OA policy. The ALPSP has
   publicly disclosed this much about the results of the meeting:

   "We are reassured that RCUK have agreed to explain to grant recipients
   why publishers might find it necessary to impose an embargo or time
   limit for deposit of articles in order to protect subscription and
   licence sales, and also to insist that such embargoes must be observed;
   we have offered to help with drafting the wording for this. We are
   also pleased to know that RCUK will be consulting publishers over
   the specification of the research which will be conducted over
   the next two years, to evaluate the likely effects of the policy
   (although papers arising from research funded after the beginning
   of 2006 are unlikely to have been published by the review date of
   2008); we hope that the research will be sufficiently objective to
   ensure that publishers do provide data about the effects, if any,
   on downloads, subscription/licence sales, and other measures of
   journal sustainability. RCUK plan to hold a workshop for societies
   in the early part of next year, and ALPSP has offered to help in any
   way that might be required."

   The ALPSP minutes of the meeting are available to members only.

   (Peter Suber: "It looks like the RCUK will not close the "copyright
   loophole" in the current draft, which allows publishers to impose
   embargoes. Instead, it may even let publishers re-word it to suit

   Permanent link to this post Posted by Peter Suber at 10/07/2005
   09:14:00 AM.
Received on Sat Oct 08 2005 - 19:11:16 BST

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