British Academy comment on the draft RCUK policy

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 2005 18:53:55 +0100

    Posted in Open Access News by Peter Suber at 10/13/2005 10:26:00 AM.

    The British Academy comment on the draft RCUK policy

    The British Academy has publicly released its August comment
    on the draft RCUK open-access policy.
    (Thanks to Gerard Lowe.)


    "[1]...The British Academy responds as the UK national academy for
    the humanities and social sciences, as a funder of research (with
    both public and private funds), and as a learned society with its own
    publishing programme.
    [2] In April 2005 the Academy published a policy review document
    on E-resources for research in the humanities and social sciences, which addresses
    the issues raised in the RCUK statement. The report supported "the
    principle of wide and ready access to research outputs and other
    research resources". In particular it stressed how important it
    was for the humanities and social sciences to engage with open
    access issues, so that the agenda was not over-dominated by the
    natural sciences.
    [3] The RCUK position statement appears to be driven primarily
    by considerations that relate to the natural sciences....In the
    humanities, the dissemination of scholarship is less dominated by
    journal articles and conference proceedings: monographs continue to
    play a key role. Scholarship can be less driven by the very latest
    published findings: articles published 30-50 years ago remain
    [4]...The RCUK position implies that an alternative system will have
    to be devised and implemented. The statement acknowledges that new
    models will require new solutions, but provides little firm evidence
    in support of its optimism that these solutions will be found. There
    are doubts that need to be addressed.
    [5] The cost in money and time of establishing and maintaining
    institutional or other repositories should not be underestimated. The
    statement is vague about likely costs, where the funding will come
    from, and indeed whether this will be more cost-effective than the
    existing model....[W]ill there be adequate support for individual
    researchers seeking to deposit their material? And it is surely
    doubtful whether learned societies across the humanities and social
    sciences are equally willing or geared up to take on any '?kite
    marking' responsibilities -- at least without any reimbursement of
    the associated costs.
    [6] The statement is also vague about the costs associated with
    open access journals. A typical 'author-pays' fee of 1500 might
    not constitute a significant addition to a typical research grant
    in the natural sciences, but it would form a significant percentage
    increase on the small individual grants that are common in the
    humanities and social sciences. Where is this additional funding
    to come from? Indeed much output in the humanities does not derive
    from research grant funding at all: is it likely that funds will be
    available just for fees?
    [7]...There is also the question as to whether institutional
    repositories are best suited to meet the needs of individual
    researchers, and whether parts, or even all, of the academic
    community might be better served by subject repositories....
    [8] With such doubts about future models, one would expect
    that the existing publishing model should not be undermined in
    the meantime. The RCUK position accepts that articles should be
    deposited in e-print repositories 'subject to copyright and licensing
    arrangements', but makes clear its view that such restrictions should
    be as liberal as possible. The Academy is not surprised that some
    university presses are continuing to assert limitations to defend
    the value that they provide through the peer review process -- for
    example, imposing a delay in access....
    [9] An equivalent requirement to deposit articles is not being
    imposed on British Academy research grants awarded in the academic
    year 2005/06 because the terms and conditions have already been
    set and publicly announced. The position will be kept under review,
    particularly in light of the availability of suitable repositories."

    Comment [from Peter Suber]: "Four quick replies. (1) On #4: The
    RCUK isn't seeking a solution yet to be found. It's funding a
    solution that it's already found. (2) On #5: The cost in time
    and money of maintaining institutional repositories should not
    be overestimated. Repositories not already funded are likely to
    be funded by JISC. Moreover, since the network of interoperable
    repositories will supplement, not supplant, "the existing model", the
    call for a comparison of their cost-effectiveness is misleading. (3)
    On #7: Nothing in the RCUK policy rules out subject repositories or
    the simultaneous deposit of RCUK-funded research in more than one
    repository. (4) On #8: We'll have to agree to disagree about whether
    RCUK should close the copyright loophole in the current draft. Since
    it allows publishers to impose embargoes of arbitrary length,
    the loophole effectively removes the teeth from the OA "mandate"
    and thereby puts publisher prosperity ahead of research productivity."

Peter Suber's comments are on target with everything. I would add
only that Plan B -- mandating immediate deposit upon acceptance for
publication and attaching any further contingencies only to whether the
access is set immediately at open access (OA) or provisionally only to
institution-internal access (IA) -- would still be a mandate. Of course
an immediate (or even 6-month) OA-setting mandate would be optimal, but
an immediate-deposit mandate with the "loopholes" applying only to the
access-setting would still leave the RCUK mandate a policy model worthy
of emulation by the rest of the world. -- And it would still succeed
in generating 100% open access with certainty and swiftness, worldwide.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu Oct 13 2005 - 19:10:32 BST

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