Open Confusion

Catching up yesterday evening with the Times Higher, I found yet another article about the confusion generated by RCUK‘s plans for Open Access publishing. Apparently pressured by the powerful Publishers Association, RCUK has adopted the following “decision tree” to explain how its proposal will work.
RCUK%20decision%20tree

As you can see, this basically says that if you have any money from RCUK  for Open Access you have to spend it on the Gold Open Access which means you have to hand it all over to a publisher. Only when you’re skint can you go Green, and even then you have to tolerate a lengthy embargo.  This is as transparent a scam as you could ever hope to find. The Academic Publishing Industry is clearly out to fleece us for as much as it can get away with, bleeding our block grants dry before allowing us to do the right thing and publish our research the only sensible way, i.e. via Green OA repositories such as the arXiv.

There’s more:

An RCUK spokeswoman confirmed that even when funding for gold is still available via universities’ RCUK-provided block grants, researchers could still choose the green option with its shorter embargo periods.

But this reading of the decision tree was disputed by a spokeswoman for the Publishers Association. She insisted that if funds and gold options were available, researchers should choose gold.

It is obvious from this exchange that the agenda is not being generated by researchers or the research councils, but by the Publishers Association, who have hijacked the entire Open Access debate for their own ends.  Clearly the Academic Publishing Industry doesn’t live in the austere economy the rest of us inhabit – their profits are protected by generous dollops of cash from the taxpayer via RCUK.

And the government seems happy to go along with this hefty backdoor subsidy. I wonder why?

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9 Responses to “Open Confusion”

  1. Peter,

    we’ve been pushing for a while to make sure that this OA policy doesn’t get in the way of the astronomy, particle and nuclear physics “doing the right thing” and using ArXiV, which is an open access model that our communities have already adopted and which works well. The actual text of the RCUK draft policy is better in this regard than the diagram, and it is unfortunate that the diagram seems to have become some kind of defining feature. Given that this policy is a draft for consultation, it would be useful if the communities that use ArXiV could make their feelings known. The deadline for input is Wednesday this week (March 20th).

    http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/documents/RCUKOpenAccessPolicyandRevisedguidance.pdf

    John

  2. Since I neither live nor work in the UK nor am I directly impacted in any way, I can’t do so, but can someone who lives and works and the UK (and, perhaps, is a UK citizen to boot) file charges against the Publishers Association for fraud, embezzlement of public money through deception, misleading advertizing, abuse of monopole etc?

  3. Peter, here is your way out:

    Another senior publishing source, who did not want to be named, said it was the “clear understanding of all publishers” that the decision tree entailed that the shorter embargo periods applied only if gold funding was unavailable.

    “The only measure of availability…is whether it is available to the author for a specific paper in a specific journal, not whether there is funding available in the institution’s publication fund,” he added. [emphasis added]

    In other words, Peter, as Head of School, you simply dictate (hey, that’s the point in being Head of School, right?) that, however much money is in your gold-access fund, for each individual paper/journal/author combination it is not available.

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      He’s already sorted that, Phillip, by planning to donate all the gold access money to arXiv. A wise course of action. Can you imagine how divisive it would be to have academics in the same department arguing over which of their papers should take gold?

      To journal publishers in the internet era: Come now you rich, and weep and howl for the miseries that are coming among you. Your riches have become corrupted… your gold and silver have rusted, and their corrosion testifies against you… you are keeping back the wages of the workman… you have hoarded wealth in these final days.

      • “He’s already sorted that, Phillip, by planning to donate all the gold access money to arXiv.”

        Yes, I remember that; I’m just wondering if it is something he could legally get away with.

  4. I’m horribly late to this party, but following a missive from our Library this week warning us of our new obligations, I have had a read of the RCUK guidance, and there is something about this debate that puzzles me. The guidance says:

    “RCUK has a preference for immediate, unrestricted, on-line access to peer-reviewed and published scholarly research papers, free of any access charge and with the maximum opportunities for re-use…. This is commonly referred to as the ‘Gold’ route to Open Access.”

    So, under this definition, surely arXiv IS a Gold route, is it not? It meets all of those criteria. In fact, given that (unlike most journals) the arXiv online holdings let you download the TeX (and hence any tables) and the figures, we can argue that arXiv is more compliant with this Gold route than paying MNRAS £900/article. Am I right? Or am I missing something important?

    Also, vaguely related, I am rather worried by the statement under “Article Processing Charges” (Section 3.5 ii) which suggests that we use market forces to control prices, i.e. price should be a factor in deciding where to publish. It then says, “HEFCE’s policy on the REF, which puts no weight on the impact value of journals in which papers are published, should be helpful in this respect, in that it facilitates greater choice.” Which I think means, “Please publish in cheap journals that no-one reads to drive costs down.” and in turn suggests to me that, in the rush to make sure research is available to the public, they’ve forgotten that it’s main goal is to reach the relevant academic community :S On the other hand, those annoying spammers who keep inviting us to submit a paper to their obscure OA journal must be delighted!

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