Open Access and Closed Telescopes

Interesting to note that 2012 was a bumper year for productivity at the UK Infra-Red Telescope (UKIRT), as demonstrated by the following nice graphic.


Some of my colleagues have expressed a measure of consternation at the fact that unless some individual or organization steps in and offers to take over the running costs, this facility will be closed down at the end of this year (2013). Why shut down a telescope that is generating so many publications?

The answer is of course that, under the UK Government’s new plans for  Gold Open Access, astronomers will be forced to pay Article Processing Charges, possibly exceeding £1000 per paper, in order to disseminate the fruits of their research. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which administers the budget for the UK’s astronomy research,  simply can’t afford the level of expenditure required to cover the costs associated with the number of articles being generated by the wanton exploitation of this facility. Indeed, in future, STFC will only be able to operate facilities that produce very few results worthy of publication.

I hope this clarifies the situation.

12 Responses to “Open Access and Closed Telescopes”

  1. What does UKIDSS stand for in your graphic?

    • telescoper Says:

      UKIDSS is the UK Infrared Deep Sky Survey:

      • Grumble, moan, whinge, etc., but the name UKIRT seems to be a hard word to say for certain people in the UK astronomy these days. It’s the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey, but you were close.

        As for the most recent comments, decommissioning costs come from a completely different pot of money and are up for negotiation. The UK has to pay that cost if UKIRT is decommissioned (a few million $) and it would not come from the astronomy budget as far as I’m aware. I’ll leave it there for people to speculate.

      • telescoper Says:

        *buzz* repetition of “Infrared”…

  2. The solution is clearly to consider both REF and the future APC charges. All we need is for everyone to be an author on 4 4* papers every 7 years. Optimally, these papers will have multiple authors from multiple UK universities. That way, the APC costs will be very small, and the REF income will be very large and everyone will be very happy.

  3. Has anyone else noticed that sometime during the last 2 or 3 weeks the comment boxes in WordPress blogs have stopped working in some versions of some browsers?

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    Peter can you go quantitative re your comments? How much to pay the publishers, how much saved by closing UKIRT?

    • telescoper Says:

      Well, the post was meant to be more than a tad tongue-in-cheek and not to be taken literally (or numerically for that matter).

      Anyway, for the record:

      At £1500 a pop, 200 publications would cost £300K per year. The running costs for UKIRT are a bit complicated because there is a considerable saving when it is run jointly with JCMT (which is also due to be closed, but after UKIRT). The prospectus for the disposal of UKIRT

      Click to access Prospectus.pdf

      gives a figure of about £1.2M, which is consistent with figures I’ve heard bandied about in other contexts.

      However there is a big fly in this particular ointment, which is that if no individual or organization comes forward to take over running UKIRT and/or JCMT they will have to be completely decommissioned, which means removing everything from the mountain and restoring the site to its natural state. I don’t know what the cost associated with that would be, but unless the liability can be shifted somewhere else, it would fall on STFC. The prospectus does not give a figure for this cost….

  5. […] budget of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, difficult choices had to be made, and some things have to go. Not everyone will be happy about the outcome, but Big Science requires Big […]

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