Universities UK on Open Access, Metrics, Mandates and the Research Excellence Framework

From: Stevan Harnad <amsciforum_at_GMAIL.COM>
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 2010 16:22:33 -0500

Hyperlinked version:

Universities UK recommends making all the research outputs submitted
to the UK's new Research Excellence Framework (REF) Open Access (OA).

The UUK's recommendation is of course very welcome and timely.

All research funded by the RCUK research councils is already covered
by the fact that all the UK councils already mandate OA. It is this
policy, already adopted by the UK, that the US is now also
contemplating adopting, in the form of the proposed Federal Research
Public Access Act (FRPAA), as well as the discussion in President
Obama's ongoing OSTP Public Access Policy Forum.

But if HEFCE were to follow the UUK's recommendation, it would help to
ensure Open Access to UK research funded by the EU (for which OA is
only partially mandated thus far) and other funders, as well as to
unfunded research -- for which OA is mandated by a still small but
growing number of universities in the UK and worldwide. (The same UUK
proposal could of course be taken up by UK's universities, for once
they mandate OA for all their research output, all UK research, funded
and unfunded, becomes OA!)

There is an arbitrary constraint on REF submissions, however, which
would greatly limit the scope of an OA requirement (as well as the
scope of REF itself): Only four research outputs per researcher may be
submitted, for a span covering at least four years, rather than all
research output in that span.

This limitation arises because the REF retains the costly and
time-consuming process of re-reviewing, by the REF peer panels, of all
the already peer-reviewed research outputssubmitted. This was
precisely what it had earlier been proposed to replace by metrics, if
they prove sufficiently correlated with -- and hence predictive of --
the peer panel ranklings. Now it will only be partially supplemented
by a few metrics.

This is a pity, and an opportunity lost, both for OA and for testing
and validating a rich and diverse new battery of metrics and
initializing their respective weights, discipline by discipline.
Instead, UUK has endorsed a simplistic (and likewise untested and
arbitrary) a-priori weighting ("60/20/20 for outputs, impact and

Harnad, S. (2009) Open Access Scientometrics and the UK Research
Assessment Exercise. Scientometrics 79 (1) Also in Proceedings of 11th
Annual Meeting of the International Society for Scientometrics and
Informetrics 11(1), pp. 27-33, Madrid, Spain. Torres-Salinas, D. and
Moed, H. F., Eds. (2007)
Received on Wed Jan 06 2010 - 21:29:07 GMT

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