UK Open Access policy launches today

The UK Research Councils RCUK have today begun the process of making all UK government-funded publications open access. Details of the scheme can be found here.

Some other countries are looking at similar initiatives or have already implemented them in some subjects (e.g. medicine in the US) but the UK scheme will be watched as a pioneering effort to bring Open Access to all public research.

Not Open_Access_logo2In fact the system will be phased in over a period of five years with 45% of publications to be open access this year. Both gold and green open access standards are approved. In the case of the gold standard publishers will be paid up front to make papers open access from the publisher’s website immediately from publication. The budget for this has been set at about £1650 per paper but there is considerable variability depending on the journal. It will be interesting to see if market forces can keep these prices down. Money will be allocated to research institutions who will distribute it around their departments. The figures are set out here.

The system will also accept the option of green open access where a journal simply allows the author to put there own copy of the paper online. Here there is a big catch: The RCUK will accept that the journal can embargo public access for six months or maybe even a year. To my mind this is not real open access at all. Publications should be open access from the moment they are accepted if not before. And there is another catch with this option. I don’t see anything in the RCUK guidelines to ensure that the document is put online by the author or that it will be kept online. For both open access standards it is not clear that there can be any guarantee that papers will be kept online forever. What if a gold standard journal disappears? What if a repository disappears? Under what circumstances can an author withdraw a paper? Perhaps there are answers to these questions somewhere but I don’t see them.

Another set of questions might be asked about how Article Processing Charges will affect the impartiality and standards of journals. You might also want to know if paying for open access up front will eventually reduce the cost to libraries of paying for subscriptions, or will they still always have to pay for access to papers published under the old system, and for papers that are privately funded?

I hope that the answer is that none of this will matter for long because another system of open access will evolve with a new way to do non-profit peer-review without the old journal system at all, but perhaps that’s just a pipe dream.

10 Responses to UK Open Access policy launches today

  1. carlmott5520 says:

    changing matter
    if there is matter and antimatter might occur the asymmetry between both to exist.then the asymmetry of space and time between the left-right rotational systems is linked to the gllobal lorentz’s lorentz ,that implies so the time dilatation and the contraction of space.leading us the symmetry of it?

  2. Name says:

    Warning: this paper has been rejected by moderators as not meeting the high standards of Arxiv

    What. The. F***.

  3. Wes Hansen says:

    I don’t believe this is just a pipe dream; in the not so distant future it could very well be that intelligent machines like IBM’s Watson provide not-for-profit scientific peer-review: The data is growing exponentially so one would think that something would have to change . . .

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      I think if computers are capable of doing the peer-review that makes them peers, so they can also do the science. Perhaps they will all be peer-reviewing each other, and blogging rumours about it. 🙂

      • Wes Hansen says:

        Yeah, welcome to the “swarm”. . . From ( “Ever since the days of Boids, scientists have made big assumptions about how animals interact. But animals are more than models. They sense the world. They communicate. They make decisions. These are the abilities that Couzin wants to channel. “I started off with these simple units interacting to form complex patterns, and that’s fine, but real animals aren’t that simple,” Couzin says. He picks up a plastic model of a crow from his bookshelf. “Here we have a pretty complex creature. It’s getting to the point where we’ll be able to analyze the behavior of these animals in natural, three-dimensional environments.” Step one might be to put a cheap Microsoft Kinect game system into an aviary, bathing the room in infrared and mapping the space.

        Step two would be to take the same measurements in the real world. Every crow in a murder would carry miniature sensors that record its movements, along with the chemicals in its body, the activity in its brain, and the images on its retina. Couzin could marry the behavior of the cells and neurons inside each bird with the movements of the flock. It’s a
        souped-up version of the locust accelerator—combine real-world models with tech to get an unprecedented look at creatures that have been studied intensively as individuals but ignored as groups. “We could then really understand how these animals gain information from each other, communicate, and make decisions,” Couzin says. He doesn’t know what he’ll find, but that’s the beauty of being part of the swarm: Even if you don’t know where you’re going, you still get there.”

  4. Brian Dolan says:

    In my opinion this is an extremely negative development. For a recent discussion of the dangers of open access publishing,
    see Peter Woit’s blog:

    I posted a couple of comments there, the gist of which I reproduce below.

    It seems to me that there is potentially a serious problem with the so-called “open access” model. With the old “reader pays” system the journals had to maintain standards to make money, no-one will pay to read articles in a poor quality journal. But with the open access model, the more papers the journal publishes the more money they make and the quality becomes completely irrelevant. It might be argued that they must still maintain standards or no-one will want to publish in them, but I believe that this is a fallacy: there are more people than ever desperate to publish to further their careers and the journals will have no problem getting articles from all an sundry (mostly paid for by public funds …).

    Our problem is that the current system relies on peer reviewed publications to assess grant applications, job and promotion applications, so we cannot do without it. But it doesn’t have to cost the Earth.
    We (i.e. active researchers) already do all the research, we type and typeset the articles, we act as editors and we do the refereeing. So what do we need the journals for?

    Let me throw out the following idea for discussion. At least in physics, with the archive, we can completely eliminate the journals: all we need to do is set up editorial panels for various sub-disciplines ourselves and, when someone submits a paper they indicate whether or not they want it to be refereed for “publication”. We go through the usual refereeing process and, if it is accepted, it appears in the archive listings as “published” (maybe put a little asterisk beside it, to indicate “published”). This would be completely equivalent what the journals do at the moment, and would cost almost nothing. Of course we would have to persuade the funding agencies that this is “Gold Standard”.

    The only problem I can see with this proposal is that there would then be only one place to send articles and, if it’s rejected, there is no second option — no other “journal” to send it to.

    • Philip Gibbs says:

      The project is aiming to create a platform for overlay journals of the type you describe and I hope it will take off.

      I agree that we need to get rid of the old publishing house system but the fate of historic papers is an issue. For decades authors have been persuaded to sign away their copyright on the pretext that this is necessary so that the journal is free to disseminate the work as widely as possible. In reality this has meant putting it behind a paywall. We can not get these copyrights back so easily.

      We need to break the system that builds the reputation of a journal and then judges scientists based on which journals they have been able to publish in. Why should their work not be judged and rated directly instead of in this obtuse fashion?

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