A response to the Finch Report on Open Access

The report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, chaired by Dame Janet Finch CBE was published in June 2012. Entitled Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications, it is commonly referred to as the “Finch Report”.

According to its terms of reference, the Working Group was asked to consider “how to expand access to the quality-assured published outputs of research” defined as journal articles, conference proceedings and monographs. The report largely ignores the latter two categories to concentrate on articles published in peer-reviewed journals. In keeping with conventional policy-making wisdom, it was also asked to adopt an evidence-based approach.

The following was written to inform the discussion and eventual response of the International Society for First World War Studies1. With over 300 members in 27 countries, the Society is the largest network of First World War scholars in the world2. Founded in 2001, this interdisciplinary organisation launched its peer-reviewed journal in 2010; First World War Studies is published by Taylor & Francis.

To ensure that scientific publications be free at the point of access, the report recommends that an Article Processing Charge (APC) be levied at the point of publication. In other words, authors will be required to pay a fee to publish their work. This mechanism is also referred to as Gold Open Access (Gold OA) and would replace the current model based on subscriptions.

The Report calls for a “ clear policy direction … towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded” (97).

Many learned societies and professional organizations including the Royal Historical Society, the British Academy, the American Historical Association and the German History Society have expressed their serious reservations about the report. They have done so with more authority than I could ever muster and I do share their concerns. Though I am convinced, like many colleagues, that open access to research findings will bring undeniable intellectual, scientific, economic and social benefits, I don’t believe the Finch Report has drawn a convincing road map to a fairer and more efficient system of scholarly communication.

The above-mentioned societies have highlighted the damaging impact a move towards Gold OA would have on their capacity to fund and support research activities. Conference, grants, postgraduate scholarships and postdoctoral positions would all be at risk (93). One would be misguided however to read in their response a rearguard defence of their established position and income streams. For the radical changes proposed by the Finch Report would indeed have a dramatic and detrimental effect on the way science and scholarship is not only disseminated but produced. The implementation of the report’s recommendations would affect and most certainly limit academic freedom and, in particular, the capacity of scientists and scholars to choose their publication outlets; they would streamline and homogenize publications at the expense of non-standard outputs like review articles, fora, opinion pieces and book reviews which contribute to the diversity and richness of scholarly and scientific debate. The level of APCs likely to be charged by generalist and prestigious journals would threaten the capacity of early-career, independent and retired scholars to contribute to academic debates. Colleagues working in developing countries (or even in affluent countries operating under a different funding structure) may be shut out of the global scientific conversation altogether.

While many have highlighted that the Working Group and its report betrayed a lack of familiarity with the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, I would argue its recommendations also undermine the position of all scientific disciplines, since it reveals a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the research cycle.

The implementation of the Finch Report will certainly jeopardize the funding and existence of most learned societies. It will sour and force a redefinition of the often mutually-beneficial relationship they enjoy with their publisher.

Members of the Working Group and advocates of Gold OA are fully aware of the controversial nature of these recommendations and have got their retaliation in first. Opponents of the Finch Report are thus being portrayed as die-hard enemies of the publishing industry or are deemed to be opposed to peer-review3. Paradoxically – and in obvious contradistinction with the report’s implications – one of them has also presented it a way to limit the influence of academic publisher – seen in some quarters as overweening and exploitative.

It is therefore important to emphasize that I do not recognize myself in these caricatures. I am attached and committed to peer-review as an essential quality-assurance mechanism. Notwithstanding the oligopolistic tendencies of the publishing sector and their impact on the cost of subscriptions, I recognize, like most researchers, that publishers have a critical and legitimate part to play in the system of scholarly communication.

So what is the problem with the Finch Report? To put it bluntly, it is a very poor piece of policy-making. Partial and limited in scope, it fails to provide an accurate costing of its recommendations. Most importantly, the Working Group has so far proved incapable of ensuring its policy will be adequately funded.

For all its weaknesses, the Report’s recommendations have been swiftly accepted by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP. Since the Government’s endorsement was made public on 16 July 2012, the funding bodies it controls have followed suit. Battered and bruised by a series of ill-conceived reforms in the last two decades, many colleagues across the Higher Education sector may recoil at the thought of fighting against another policy steamroller.

Yet, it is essential that the profession at large engages in a sustained and critical manner with the Report. The changes it proposes would indeed have a detrimental impact on the financial health of the sector and on the very nature of scholarly communications. It is imperative researchers, learned societies and universities adopt a firm and combative stance against a generalized move towards Gold OA. It is our duty as scholars and researchers but we also owe it to the taxpayer and our students; those who will ultimately be asked to foot the bill. Colleagues who wonder about the impact their individual opposition should remember that the implementation of these reforms ultimately rests on our participation as researchers, reviewers and journal editors.

It is perhaps important at this stage to underline two of the fallacious value judgements that pervade the report and would determine its implementation. According to the working group, high-quality scholarship is mainly disseminated in the form of journal articles. Regardless of the value currently ascribed to subscription-based publications, it also assumes that Gold OA journals will always attract higher-quality paper (107). One feel compelled to remind the authors of the report that the funding model of an academic journal has no bearing whatsoever on its status. It is the quality of their peer-review and editors that accounts for the prestige of Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, the Annales, the Journal of Modern History, Quaderni Storici or Past and Present to name but a few.

The report all but condemns to irrelevance a range of scholarly outputs which, like review articles and book reviews, are deemed unable and unworthy of generating revenue from APC (69). This testifies to the dramatic impoverishment of the definition of scholarly outputs imposed by recent reforms in the UK. This of course is evidenced by the way the REF is managed by most research-intensive universities in the country. In contradistinction to the exercise’s own guidelines that stipulate that “that all types of research and all forms of research output across all disciplines shall be assessed on a fair and equal basis”4.

Perhaps fearful of the mobilization of the scholarly community, the Report claims that the reforms it advocates will only be implemented at the end of a “sustained and complex period of transition” (111). However, UK-based researchers will not have the leisure to enjoy such a transition period, since the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) now proposes to make open access a requirement of its Research Excellence Framework (REF) after the current 2014 exercise5(55, 92). In other words, researchers must be in a position to meet this new requirement by 2013-2014; at the time when they will start writing the publications they intend to submit for the REF 2020.

At the risk of exercising the reader’s patience, it seems essential to delve into this report in further details.

This report is not about open access

Clearly anxious to impose their views, the authors of the report reduces the plurality of ways to achieve open access to the – admittedly better known – Gold and Green roads to open access. Green OA essentially refers to the optional or mandated archiving of publications, often in their pre-print versions, in institutional or subject repositories. Repository journal (in whatever forms they may take) are often dismissed for their presumed weakness or rejection of peer-review process (68). Though it is generally true that Green OA does not entail the presence of a quality-assurance mechanism, it does not follow that only Gold OA provides for peer-review.

The report also fails to address the other reasons why repositories remain unpopular if not ignored. If the Working Group had been serious about Green OA, it would have recommended that it be made a requirement of the next REF exercise and promoted the policies of the 24 British universities that have already adopted a “green mandate”. These include Durham, Birkbeck College, Bath, Nottingham, UCL, Edinburgh. (There must be some value in “green mandates” for 254 institutions worldwide – including Princeton, Harvard, MIT and the University of California – to adopt them).

Green OA is of course very problematic for publishers who fear the loss of income that would undeniably result from the adoption of shorter (6-month) embargo before release in the public domain through a repository (86-87). No one would expect turkeys to vote for Christmas, but a serious report ought to have deployed some creativity and intellectual flexibility to envisage the possibility for public funders to mitigate the opportunity costs that would be incurred by publishers under a more ambition Green OA regime. While I don’t underestimate the difficulty this would entail, this option should have at least be entertained and scrutinized. HEFCE could have perhaps subsidised the purchase of subscription-based publications allowing for shorter embargo period (96). This would obviously be anathema to free-marketeers, but as we will see, the Finch Report simply proposes to redesign the channels whereby public funding supports the publishing industry.

In short, repositories have not been given a real chance (88). Making the deposit of publications in a repository a requirement of the REF would have a direct, immediate impact at a negligible cost (88)6.

Crucially, it is essential to underline that contrary to the report’s claim (94), Gold OA is NOT the only way to guarantee quality assurance through peer-review. The Platinum and “Freemium” types of open access that dispense with APC charges while meeting the costs of peer-review and other services are not even mentioned in the report7.

For all intents and purposes, this report is not about open access, but conflates it with Gold OA and open access business models in the publishing industry (Annex C. 120). In this respect, the Working Group failed to meet the terms of reference set by the Government.

How much would Gold OA cost?

Policy-makers, funding bodies and university managers constantly and rightly stress that the current financial predicament of the British state constrain science and higher education policies. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake at least, that austerity will lead us back to prosperity. In such a context, there is no question that the costs of the reforms advocated in the Finch Report should be at the centre of our discussion. So how much would they cost? Well… they just don’t know.

The report acknowledges that it is impossible at this stage to measure the true cost of scholarly communication (53). It therefore proceeds on the basis of four assumptions which cannot be accurately defined.

“i. the average level of APCs;

ii. the extent to which the UK is ahead of the rest of the world in adopting open access publishing;

iii. the number and proportion of articles with overseas as well as UK authors for which UK institutions would be required to pay an APC; and

iv. the extent to which during the transition to open access, universities and other organisations are able to reduce their expenditure on subscriptions even as their expenditure on APCs rises (a factor which is not covered in the modelling) (74)”

Individual journals’ APC charge, when known, do vary. On average the University of Nottingham currently pays £1,223 per article (57) and initial conversations with publishers indicate that, under favourable conditions, these would reach c. £1,800 (c. $3,000). Prestigious history journals estimate their costs per article at c. £6,000 ($9,500) and the report accepts that APC charged by leading journals would rise (92). Therefore taking as the report does the average APC charge paid by the Wellcome Trust (£1,500) as a basis for modelling produces a dramatic underestimation of the cost likely to be incurred by researchers and universities under a Gold OA regime.

The sophistication of the models run by the Working Group cannot mask another critical limitation of their report: the impossibility, at this stage, to measure the non-cash cost of peer review. Currently covered by researchers who volunteer their time and expertise, this cost is perhaps the one variable that would not be affected by any measure of competition or regulation (assuming of course that we do see quality-assurance as a critical part of the publication process). To be fair, the Report acknowledges this issue but the point is buried in a footnote on page 61.

The operation and cost of peer-review seem to bring about a great deal of confusion. According to a speech he gave before the Publishers’ Association on 2 May 2012, David Willetts appears to believe its costs are covered by publishers8. Likewise, one of the main contributors to the report would have us believe that Gold OA is the only way to pay for peer review9.

For all its limitations, the Report does helpfully attempt to provide an indication of the costs likely to be incurred under different projections.

“The HE sector would under all scenarios face a significant cost. Savings would only be achieved by organisations outside the sector. Under one of the rather optimistic scenario, UK HE face an additional cost of £11m per year in addition to costs currently incurred to access journals.” (73)

A “middle-ground” hypothesis brings the total bill up to £38m a year while, under a pessimistic scenario, “additional cost to HE could be over £70m a year” (75). According the Report’s best estimate, Gold OA would cost £50 to £60m a year (100).

The transition to the new regime would also be a costly business – between £2.7 and £11m in the first year and up to £4m in the next years – as the HE sector would need foot the bill for negotiation, consultation, advocacy and monitoring (99). In these straightened times, it is heart-warming to know consultancy firms can rely on Higher Education Institutions to consolidate their income stream.

The report also underlines the potential financial risk faced by the UK research base, should the country prove unable to take the rest of the world along the proposed golden route, and if markets proved too inefficient to bear down on costs (73-74). What is striking in many respects is the capacity of the report to undermine the financial case for Gold OA.

The objective of the Working Group and indeed a condition of its recommendations’ success is a world-wide move to Gold OA (54). However, as the report reminds us, 4% of the world’s researchers currently operate in the UK. Together we contribute for 6% of the global scientific production. In other words, the UK is a net producer of scientific and scholarly publications. Even if the entire world enthusiastically adopted Gold OA, the UK would still see an increase in the cost of its scholarly output by 4 to 5% (63). The only way to limit the cost of the transition would be to ensure the UK does not move towards Gold OA at a faster pace than the rest of the world. But the very implementation of the report would ensure this actually happened. Gold OA simply does not make any financial sense for the UK research base.

The report also acknowledges that the proposed move to Gold OA would have a severe impact on journals with a steady number of contributions from overseas and therefore on the dissemination of findings of international collaborative projects. 46% of articles published by UK-based researchers involve an overseas author, yet the Report fails to provide a clear policy direction in this regard (69). International collaboration and collegiality at the national and institutional levels would suffer as a result.

The Working Group also put its faith in the capacity of market pressures “to keep publishing costs and the level of APCs in check” (63, 76). Yet in most cases, competition between universities will lead researchers to seek publication in a small number of prestigious journals whose APC will simply rise in response. Even if the UK government could conjure up an efficient global scholarly market, the costs for research-intensive universities, research funders, and therefore the British taxpayer will most certainly keep on rising.

A drain on university resources

Ideally, the cost of every publication would be included in a grant application and covered by research funders. Even if every single grant application were funded, this would not prove as straightforward as it seems. The report rightly notes the difficulty for applicants to predict the number and cost of publications at that point in the research cycle (56). Moreover, this model would also require researchers to publish their work within the auditing period of each individual grant. In this configuration, a senior scholar asked by a prestigious publication to consider the impact of her groundbreaking RCUK-funded work in the last 10 years would need to identify alternative sources of funding. Though the report acknowledges this problem, it fails to address it. Gold OA is therefore not only problematic for Arts and Humanities researchers but across the disciplinary landscape.

Despite their commitment to open access, research funders would therefore not be in a position to meet the costs of Gold OA. Universities would have to increase their financial contribution to the system of scholarly communication. The report makes it clear that increased access to scholarly output cannot be achieved without additional funding or “diversions from existing funds” including existing library budgets (62, 76). Gold OA will “represent a drain on university resources” (75); a fact confirmed by David Willetts in his letter to Dame Finch.

Financial and managerial implications for universities

The report’s recommendations are critically undermined by the weakness of models based on speculative propositions. Unable to address the need of the global academic community, the report also failed to address the serious managerial problems its recommendations would create for universities.

The Working Group left it to universities and research funders to devise policies that will “establish open access publication as the primary means of publishing and dissemination, with dedicated institutional funds to support it (70).” Its members have already trumpeted the Government’s announcement in September that it would spend £10m towards the costs of the transition to Gold OA. Concentrated on 30 universities and provided by existing funds, this sum is woefully inadequate. It would barely cover the costs of the publications produced by Imperial College in one year, let alone of the entire sector…10.

In all likelihood, the necessary funds will be taken out of university libraries’ budget whose “proportion of overall university expenditure … fell from 3.5% in the mid-1990s to 2.7% in 2009 (38).” In the age of the “student consumer”, Gold OA may turn out to be a hard-sell…

Finding the money, though, is one thing; allocating it to researchers within universities might prove even trickier. The financial commitment to cover the APC would have to be made at the point of submission even if the payment will intervene at publication. Why would a journal invest in peer-reviewing an article they may not be asked to publish? It stands to reason, therefore, that research-intensive universities would need to provision for each individual REF submission; in other words to cover the cost of 4 to 6 publications per researchers per REF cycle.

Here again, the report does provide a good picture of the managerial problems this would raise.

Universities will need to consider carefully, and to consult with their staff about, the policies and procedures surrounding publication funds. For researchers will be nervous about the implications of giving university and departmental managers a greater say in where and how researchers publish their work: the differences in cost of publishing in one journal rather than another will for the first time (outside those domains where page charges are a common feature of publishing) become a significant issue in decision-making. Universities should therefore consult with their staff and develop policies and procedures to set up and administer funds to meet the costs of APCs. Issues they will have to consider will include

i. whether they should promote publication in open access journals as the principal or default channel for all research publications

ii. the amount to be taken from QR and other sources (in addition to Research Council and Wellcome Trust grants) to establish the institutional fund for the payment of APCs

iii. whether a single fund is to be established and administered centrally, or a series of funds for each school or faculty; and where responsibility for the administration of the fund(s) will lie

iv. the criteria to be adopted in deciding on the journals in which publications should be placed, especially in a context where price becomes a consideration

v. how support for publication should be integrated with other aspects of research management, for example the development of research capacity, and support for early-career researchers

vi. policies and procedures relating to the provision of funds to support publication of articles judged to be not of the highest quality

vii. policies relating to payment of APCs when articles are published in collaboration with researchers from other institutions

viii. how to minimise transaction costs while maintaining proper accountability. (107)


Taken by research managers, the decision to publish will also involve a trade-off between “price and quality” of publication11.

In pursuing this path, universities will have to consider, and to consult carefully with their staff, about the precise polices and arrangements that they put in place. For while there are advantages in making researchers and others more aware of the costs of the publication process, they are likely to be nervous about the implication that universities will have significantly greater influence on the specific channels they use to publish and disseminate their work. Moreover, in managing publication funds, universities will have to work together with authors, and in line with the principle of academic freedom, in making judgements about the potential for publication in journals with different levels not only of status, but of APC: cost of publication will thus be a significant consideration for the first time on a large scale and across all disciplines.(71, my emphasis)

I don’t intend to offer yet another one of those ritual denunciations of research managers and university administrators so common on campuses these days. Faculty heads and research leads across the UK will be all too aware of the difficulties that this would pose to them. Anyone aware of the complexity and sensitivity of the preparation of REF submissions will realize the immense difficulties that a move to Gold OA would create.

The Working Group is clearly aware that the implementation of its recommendations would have a significant impact on the way research would be managed by universities and clearly underlines their potential impact on academic freedom. At a time when REF submissions are used – not always very subtly – as a tool for “performance management”, one wonders about the implications Gold OA would have on those personnel whose research would not be deemed eligible for publication. This is where the financial and managerial implications of the report converge ominously. As APC rise, universities will have no choice but to limit the number of publications they produce. Short of charging researchers themselves or their students, this will be the only way to control the rising cost of scholarly communications.

The discussion and implementation of the report’s recommendations focuses on institutions and ignores the nature and diversity of our professional and intellectual communities (70). As problematic as it is for established academics, the report seems blissfully ignorant of the implications of Gold OA on postgraduate students and postdoctoral researchers whose professional prospects directly depend on their capacity to publish. Under the proposed regime, one would expect potential doctoral students to seek reassurances from their Graduate Schools of choice before committing themselves to a PhD programme.

Enamoured as it is with a crude understanding of free-market economics, the Working Group failed – or refused – to recognize that the system of scholarly communication and the publishers’ profit margin is not based on competition and market mechanism but actually relies on the direct and essential contribution of our professional community.

This is after all why the Working Group hopes to get away with its incapacity to cost the peer-review process. Expert evaluation is performed at their own costs by scientists and scholars; it cannot be measured but remains invaluable.

What is to be done?

As publishers, the Government, HEFCE and presumably a few savvy universities are rushing to implement this report, what are our options?

Well, we could cave in to the relentless pressure. After all, David Willets has already told us in May we would be fighting “the wrong battle”. In doing so, we would however fail to honour our professional duty in accepting a vision that reduces our scholarly and intellectual work to an immeasurable and therefore negligible variable.

It is important to stress that the unbalanced nature of the report’s recommendations would undermine the quality of existing relationships between key players in the system of scholarly communications and, in particular, between scholars and publishers.

We have the means to oppose these ill-conceived reforms. Some of the options below could undermine our existing partnerships with commercial publishers and should not be considered lightly. But this is what the imposition of a mercantile vision of science and scholarship could bring about.

  • Journals and learned societies can simply reject Gold OA. This would not compromise their collaboration with publishers and the status quo would not jeopardize international collaborations. Libraries would continue to suffer from price increases but it could also force the government to consider the use of embargo as a way to bring costs down.
  • Researchers can start to charge for peer-review. This would really bring transparency and competition to this market. The scientific community and learned societies in particular, through their expertise and capacity to mobilize a wide array of voluntary experts may thus regain some bargaining power. This would obviously compromise many commercially-operated journals.
  • Universities themselves could take over the publication of journals and let their own brands compete with those of publishers. The suggestion was made recently and ought to be taken seriously12. Harvard v. Elsevier. How does that sound to you?
  • Learned societies and academic communities are now in a position, thanks to technological advances, to replace publishers effectively. The management of the peer-review and publication process can be facilitated by about a dozen free, open source softwares whose quality will only improve as take-up increases. “Print-on demand” tools for e-books and e-journals are already available at a modest cost. Scholarly networks can also effectively mobilize the internet and social media to promote and market their publication and, most importantly, they can continue to provide through peer-review, the expert quality control they currently offer for free to the publishing industry.

I realize that none of these options would be easy to implement and sustain. They would, however, be more beneficial to society at large than the imposition of Gold OA on an unsuspecting scholarly community.

The Finch report betrays an impoverished vision of scholarship reduced to outputs whose measurability is deemed equivalent to their intellectual value. Poorly researched and based on fragile assumptions, the report makes recommendations which are set to remain unfunded, unless the Government unexpectedly decides to increase the resources of universities over the next decade13.

Despite its repeated commitment to “an environment which promotes innovation from both established players and new entrants, … and experimentation in the mechanisms of peer review” (91) the report has obviously failed to do this. Its rash dismissal of embargos and its neglect of Platinum OA and its variants to name but two examples demonstrate that the working group was reluctant to challenge the business models of existing players.

I should however like to end on a positive note of agreement. As the Working Group puts it, “the risks to the performance and standing of the UK research community are too great to be allowed to drift through lack of appropriate attention. The continuing development of an effective and sustainable research communications system is too important to be left to chance (111)” or indeed, I would add, to unsubstantiated assumptions…

It is high time researchers asserted their rightful place and expertise in this debate and followed the lead of learned societies in opposing the recommendations of the Finch report.

  1. The numbers between brackets refer to pages in the Finch Report []
  2. http://www.firstworldwarstudies.org []
  3. Jubb, Michael. “Go for Gold in the Scientific Publishing Revolution.” Research Fortnight (July 25, 2012): 22. []
  4. http://www.ref.ac.uk/media/ref/content/pub/panelcriteriaandworkingmethods/01_12.pdf p.6 []
  5. The REF is a research assessment exercise used to allocate a significant part of HE funding in the UK. []
  6. The case against repositories does stress how difficult it is to measure their costs. Yet, ironically, the report cannot establish the cost of the policy it so enthusiastically recommends []
  7. Dacos, Marin. “OpenEdition Academic Committee’s Statement on Open Access.” Open Electronic Publishing, October 12, 2012. http://oep.hypotheses.org/1039. []
  8. Willetts, David. “Public Access to Publicly-funded Research.” Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, May 2, 2012. http://www.bis.gov.uk/news/speeches/david-willetts-public-access-to-research . []
  9. Jubb, Michael. “Go for Gold in the Scientific Publishing Revolution.” Research Fortnight (July 25, 2012): 22. []
  10. Shorley, Debbie. “It’s Time for Universities to Reclaim Publishing Rights.” Research Professional, October 31, 2012. http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1262730. []
  11. Jubb, Michael. “Go for Gold in the Scientific Publishing Revolution.” Research Fortnight (July 25, 2012): 22. []
  12. Shorley, Debbie. “It’s Time for Universities to Reclaim Publishing Rights.” Research Professional, October 31, 2012. http://www.researchresearch.com/index.php?option=com_news&template=rr_2col&view=article&articleId=1262730. []
  13. There is no little irony to the fact that those very policy-makers adamant to define and restrict scholarly and scientific activities to measurable outputs have notoriously failed to model with even a modicum of accuracy the policy changes they recently imposed on the sector. From the cost of student loans to student numbers, the Government and its agencies have been unable to measure the impact of their most radical reforms. []

8 thoughts on “A response to the Finch Report on Open Access

  1. Pierre, thanks for this summary.
    My concern is as an independent historian who funds her own research. The Finch report only seems to think that scholarly activity is done in HE environments. As you point out near the start of your summary, this is not the case. There are many who are outside the formal HE environment who have published and contribute a significant amount to the academic world. From what I can see, the Finch report would have a direct impact on the individual outside of an HE academic institution getting anything published. Free access to articles is great, however, having seen a number of self-published texts recently, there is a lot to be said for the publication process (although the costs could be reduced I’m sure) and in particular blind peer review. Personally, I would rather pay to access an article than have to pay to have one published – the fact that it’s gone through a process and review panel does increase credibility.

  2. Peter Howson says:

    Having read (most) of the Finch Report I can see where the argument against is strong. One point that does not appear to have been addressed is that research funded with public money should be ‘freely’ available. As another independent researcher I find it difficult to accept that any such ressearch should usually only be available if I then pay for it. This might be acceptable were the cost to be reasonable but the current pricing of Journals and the down load fee for individual articles do not seem so. If the costs of production lie in producing hard copy, and mailing it to subscribers, then why bother? Some researchers would lose out but then some do already. I suspect that the debate may be overcome by the continuing development of the technology. Researchers, in most cases, no longer visit libraries to consult their paper catalogue, they do it on line. The digitization of texts out of copyright is making book storage less relevant. What next for articles? If the move is away from ‘push’ (publishing) to ‘pull’ (retrieval) then a properly organised repository system would appear the way forward. Whatever is decided the independent researcher is still likely to be made to pay.

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