Gold Open Access: Why you should be worried about it

This is a very busy time of the year for academics and few of us have had the chance to investigate the issues raised by Gold Open Access and its imposition upon the UK research base.

In response to a colleague’s suggestion, I have listed some of the reasons why the profession should be very concerned about the proposed Open Access policy and mobilize against it – at once.

  • RCUK expects all funded researchers to comply with their Open Access policy by April 2013 at the latest.
  • HEFCE is looking to make compliance with Open Access policy a requirement of the next REF exercise. In other words, your publications forthcoming in 2013 and 2014 must comply or they may be excluded from your REF submission.
  • The Wellcome Trust is already applying their Open Access policy retrospectively. Non-compliant researchers will lose their funding.
  • RCUK has only allocated funding to cover the cost of Open Access in 30 institutions across the sector.
  • If you are lucky enough to be RCUK-funded and to work at one of those institutions, you may still NOT be able to fund your publications in 2013. The additional grant only covers 45 to 50% of RCUK-funded researchers.
  • Our capacity to publish will then depend on our capacity to meet the cost of the APC (minimum £1500 per article). Universities are unlikely to be able to meet the costs incurred by each researcher, so research managers will have to choose who publishes, where, and when. We will lose whatever is left of our autonomy.
  • There is no guarantee that doctoral or postdoctoral researchers, RCUK-funded or not, will be able to fund their publications. Their capacity to meet the REF criteria and to land an academic job will therefore be severely restricted.
  • Furthermore, paying to publish is not sufficient to comply with the proposed Gold OA policy. Your publisher must also allow publication under a CC-BY licence allowing commercial reuse. At this stage, Taylor&Francis, Wiley, OUP and CUP journals do not comply with the proposed policy. In other words, even if you only publish in the most prestigious journals in your field, do not neglect this issue. Your publications are unlikely to meet your funder’s requirements and to be eligible for the next REF.
  • So-called “hybrid models” often don’t comply either and, in many cases, also fail to meet the embargo requirement.

Proponents of this Gold Open Access policy have been moving fast, aggressively and relentlessly. They have been successful so far, because they have remained largely unchallenged except by a small group of Open Access specialists. The complexity of the matter also works to their advantage and they largely rely on obfuscation to press this advantage.

Though we all have other pressing business to attend to, this open access policy is shaping up to be yet another disaster for Higher Education in the UK. This is happening right now, on our campus and across the country. Please take some of your precious time to look into this.

3 thoughts on “Gold Open Access: Why you should be worried about it

  1. John says:

    I have tweeted this – an excellent summary. There is also the question of commercial publishers – are academics not going to be able to submit material published commercially to the REF?

    • Glad to read you found it useful! The crux of the matter is the status of scholarship under copyright law. The proposed policy does not only undermine the position of most publishers, but also that of authors keen to retain their rights over their research.

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