Open Access - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

6  Use and re-use


81.  The Finch Report recommended that open access policies should minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use of content, especially for non commercial purposes, and on the ability to use the latest mechanisms to organise and manipulate content. The Government agreed, and RCUK requires that where an APC is paid, the article must be published under the Creative Commons Attribution Only (CC-BY) licence. Unfortunately for RCUK, research organisations and open access, evidence we received suggested that some publishers have increased their APCs in response to that requirement.[111]

82.  We received evidence of widespread concern, uncertainty and confusion about the impact of particular licences, for example CC BY, on author rights and extent of re-use rights. At present, there is insufficient research data on this issue. PLOS stated that 70,000 articles were published under CC-BY by three of the largest open access publishers in 2012, with 200,000 published in the same way over a decade, with no issues arising to date from the licence choice.[112]

83.  We are aware that the Government has sought further advice on this issue through a series of ministerial 'roundtables'. That work should have been undertaken and completed before implementation of RCUK's open access policy on 1 April 2013, as it would have minimised concerns within the academic and publishing communities.

84.  We conclude that the Government must keep an open mind on licensing requirements until the findings of the ministerial roundtable are available. The Government should commission independent research on the implications of the most common licences if necessary. We believe that authors should be able to choose the licence that applies to their work, especially during the transitional period while further evidence is gathered. Mandating the use of a particular licence should not be prioritised over immediate online access to findings of publicly funded research, which is at the heart of open access.

85.  We recommend that the Government reports the outcomes of its further investigations into licensing to us and communicates them clearly through RCUK as soon as possible in order to assuage concerns of authors and their institutions.

86.  RCUK should monitor complaints from authors and/or their institutions about breach of licensing conditions or inappropriate re-use of content, consider these at its review of open access policy, and identify appropriate action if necessary.

Open access, innovation and growth

87.  The Government has asserted that open access offers "significant social and economic benefits by spreading knowledge, raising the prestige of UK research and encouraging technology transfer".[113] Research undertaken by Professor John Houghton demonstrates that open access is likely to return a five-fold increase in investment[114] and the Government, extrapolating from a separate study by Professor Houghton and Dr Swan on the economic impact of Danish SMEs being unable to access research, has estimated that the cost to the UK economy of the existing arrangements was €525m per year.[115]

88.  It is surprising then, that the only business interest outside the publishing sector represented on the Finch working group was Rolls Royce, and its involvement was limited to the sub group on licensing. Reed Elsevier's representative on the same sub group recalled:

I can remember a discussion very clearly. There was an intervention by the representative from the Technology Strategy Board, a chap from Rolls-Royce, who thought it was absolutely ludicrous that anyone would suggest that his company's access to research literature should be subsidised by the taxpayer.[116]

89.  We heard evidence that open access is of more vital importance for SMEs, which on the whole cannot themselves afford to engage researchers or pay for subscriptions. Professor Houghton and Dr Swan said:

People working for innovative SMEs do not go to public libraries for work-related information, as the Finch Report suggests. In [the] real world, people use Web search engines to search for articles. The concept of a scientific journal is not relevant to what they do. Gold open access is thus of limited relevance to these non academic constituencies. Green open access is exactly what the SME sector needs: it needs immediate, article level use without constraints. The BIS innovation agenda is best served by Green open access, which is affordable now.[117]

90.  Consultation with business and industry (outside the publishing sector) during the formation of the Government's policy was wholly inadequate, despite the Government's policy objective to drive innovation and growth through its open access policy. We have seen no evidence that Gold is either more useful to, or is preferred by, businesses. The available evidence indicates that Green meets the needs of businesses, at a considerably lower cost.

91.  We believe that BIS must review its consultation processes to ensure that lessons are learned from the lack of involvement of a broader range of businesses, particularly SMEs, in the formation of open access policy. It is particularly important to ensure that future policies and initiatives (for example Gateway to Research) take into account the specific needs of the communities they are intended to serve, to ensure optimum functionality and a more efficient use of public funds.

111   Ev 115  Back

112   Ev 83 Back

113   BIS' Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth Back

114   John Houghton, Bruce Rasmussen and Peter Sheehan. (2010) 'Economic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs' Back

115   Q117 Back

116   Q39 Back

117   Ev w93 Back

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Prepared 10 September 2013