Archive for Parliamentary Select Committee

Seeing Sense on Open Access

Posted in Open Access, Politics, Science Politics with tags , , on September 10, 2013 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post to pass on the news that the Parliamentary Select Committee on Open Access has published its report. A PDF file of the whole thing is available here. I was eagerly anticipating this publication for many reasons, including the fact that this blog (inadvertently) provided evidence to it:

A senior academic wrote on his blog that “the publisher was deliberately and disgracefully misleading the author about the RCUK policy on open access in order to take money from them”. I could go on, but can you convince us otherwise, because if that is the case, this is one of the less helpful pieces of the work that the Government has decided to do?

Anyway, the good news is that the Select Committee has seen sense and produced a report that is very critical of the government’s rush to Gold Open Access. Here are the main conclusions:

92. The Government’s committed and pro-active stance to increasing access to published research findings is admirable, as is its desire to achieve full open access. Gold open access, at scale, is a desirable ultimate goal, and we acknowledge that the recommendations of the Finch Report, and the Government and RCUK’s open access policies were formulated with this end in mind.

93. However, almost without exception, our evidence has pointed to gaps in both the qualitative and quantitative evidence underpinning the Finch Report’s conclusions and recommendations, most significantly a failure to examine the UK’s Green mandates and their efficacy. This has been replicated in the formulation of the Government and RCUK’s open access policies and their mistaken focus on the Gold solution as the primary route to achieving open access at scale in the UK. The major mechanism of transition must be Green open access, specifically through strong immediate self-archiving mandates set by funders and institutions, either as a funding condition or tied to research assessment as appropriate.

94. Given the emphasis the Government has placed on the benefits of open access, the Government should seek a derogation in relation to VAT on e-journals as a matter of urgency.

95. The Minister for Universities and Science and members of the Finch working group are due to meet in September 2013 to assess impact and progress of open access policy. RCUK has said it intends to review its policy in 2014, to assess how developments compare to their expectations, and to meet annually after that. As part of those reviews, both Government and RCUK must fully consider and address the conclusions and recommendations set out in this Report.

Item 93 is pretty strong stuff and I agree with every word of it! I have long believed that the Finch Report, which precipitated the Government’s present policy, was hijacked by vested interests in the academic publishing industry, greatly to the detriment of the academic community. The government needs to reverse its policy, and fast, before more money that should be spent on research and scholarship is wasted on subsidies for greedy publishers. It remains to be seen whether the government has the courage to change course.

UPDATE: See here for a more detailed and considered report by Stephen Curry