Business, Innovation and Skills CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Open University

Executive Summary

1. The Open University (OU) welcomes recent initiatives to ensure the outputs of publicly funded research are made freely available to all.

2. In response to this inquiry, The Open University recommends that:

Research Councils UK (RCUK) reviews the size of the Open Access (OA) block grant to ensure it covers 80% of the full economic cost of Open Access publishing of RCUK-funded research outputs

The UK Government provides additional funding for the necessary sector-level and HEI infrastructure

HEFCE is asked to clarify Open Access requirements as soon as possible, including requirements of the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise

The UK Government leads negotiations with publishers to keep costs as low as possible and to ensure acceptance of Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licences

The UK Government continues to monitor changes in the wider environment, including international developments, and remains willing to revise policy and funding to ensure UK HEIs are able to retain their competitive position in the global research arena.

Brief introduction

3. The Open University’s mission is to be “Open to people, places, methods and ideas” and it has an extensive track record in making learning materials available through, for example, its:

iTunes U materials, currently accessed for free at a rate of 177,200 downloads a week1

free learning resources on OpenLearn2, which has 400,000 unique visitors a month

formation of Futurelearn Ltd, a partnership led by the OU which will bring together a range of free, open, online courses from leading UK universities through MOOCs (massive open online courses)

4. The Open University’s research, which was ranked in the top third of UK Higher Education Institutions in the last RAE3, directly informs its learning and teaching.

5. With regard to research publications, the OU has been an active participant in the “Green” Open Access movement4 since 2002, and welcomes the recent initiatives to ensure that publicly funded research is made available for access by anyone for free via “Gold” Open Access5 . The OU has operated Open Research Online6, its own research publications repository, since 2002. The repository currently contains over 23,000 items, including almost 10,000 full text publications. Our internationally recognised research programme has explored and developed different ways of using the semantic web to discover and link research materials from repositories containing both research publications and research data. There are considerable benefits in extending the reach of the research we do through open access, and we are keen for researchers to engage successfully with the on-going changes.

Open University position and recommendations for action

6. The Government’s acceptance of the Finch Group report will have major consequences for all stakeholders. However, much will depend on how and when the report’s recommendations are implemented. As yet, it is uncertain what The Open University and other universities will need to put in place in order to meet government and funder requirements.

7. As the Finch report notes, the move away from traditional models of publishing will take considerable time and there will be transitional costs associated with this shift from “reader-pays” (via libraries) to pay-to-publish with immediate open access where usually authors are required to pay a fee (Article Processing Charge). Universities will face additional costs for Gold OA publishing charges and the required infrastructure to manage these processes alongside existing management of the subscription system. Therefore funds will be required to support this transition but the Government concludes that this is a matter for the independent funding bodies.

8. Pump priming funding on behalf of the funding and research councils has only been provided to 30 HEIs. Numerous other HEIs in the UK will also need to set up expensive infrastructure but have not been provided with the support to do this. The cost to the whole sector and to individual universities of development, implementation and promotion of new administrative procedures, systems and workflows to ensure compliance with requirements, will require review. There is a need for sector-level infrastructure to assist universities as well as additional capital for individual universities for this part of the transition process.

9. Block grants to cover the cost of Article Processing Charges are being provided by the Research Councils on the basis of 80% of the full economic cost. This provides an easily accessible and identifiable source of funding for universities to support their academics. However, it should be noted that this is not additional money provided to the research councils and therefore, means less money for research activity overall; in a context of already declining research budgets in real terms. Furthermore, early estimates at The Open University are that the RCUK block grant may not sufficiently cover the Open Access costs of publications arising from Research Council funding.

Recommendation 1: RCUK reviews the size of the Open Access block grant to ensure it covers 80% of the full economic cost of Open Access publishing of RCUK-funded research outputs.

Recommendation 2: The UK Government provides additional funding for the necessary sector-level and HEI infrastructure.

10. There is also likely to be a bigger, institutional funding gap to meet when the full HEFCE requirements for Open Access to research outputs are clarified. Whilst it is anticipated that HEFCE will expect its QR grant to be used to support this, this will yet again impact on HEI budgets and institutions’ abilities to effectively support their research portfolios, including the effective dissemination of research.

11. There is also a risk that the different funder policies, and differing availability of funding, will lead to an undesirable two-tier publication system within HEIs, ie one covering publications that are financially supported and those that are not. This could result in confusion for, or disenfranchisement of, some researchers.

Recommendation 3: HEFCE is asked to clarify Open Access requirements as soon as possible, including the requirements of the next REF exercise.

12. As well as covering Article Processing Charge costs, there will still be a need to maintain subscriptions to journals through HEI library services for a transition period of at least five years, especially to those that are published outside the UK. At this point in time, the stance taken on OA by the Government and research funders in the UK has not yet been followed widely across the world, particularly in relation to the emphasis on Gold OA. The percentage of The Open University’s subscribed journal resources which are currently non-UK is 90%. The UK contributes a small percentage of the world’s research output (6%), so for a period we will be paying to make UK research OA while continuing to purchase subscriptions to access research from the rest of the world. Unless additional funding is made available, there is a risk that the transitional costs will be taken from the budgets of library services, leading to a reduction in the number of subscriptions to journals. We must ensure our researchers and our students continue to have access to a wide range of quality material, to ensure the continued quality of UK research.

13. Concerns have been expressed within our academic community about the requirement to use Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licences. The very wide reuse this allows may lead to misrepresentation of research. It will also be difficult for individual researchers (or indeed individual universities) to put pressure on publishers to adhere to this particular requirement. For those researchers obliged to publish under such a licence, this may become too restrictive.

Recommendation 4: UK Government leads negotiations with publishers to keep costs as low as possible and ensure widespread acceptance of CC-BY model.

Recommendation 5: UK Government continues to monitor changes in the wider environment, including international developments, and remains willing to revise policy and funding to ensure UK HEIs are able to retain their competitive position in the global research arena.

7 February 2013

1 An average based on the last four weeks of traffic as at 4 February 2013.

2 http://www.open.edu/openlearn

3 The OU was in the top third in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, with over 50% of its research deemed internationally excellent and 14% world-leading.

4 Green Open Access - research is published in traditional subscription journals and authors self-archive their peer reviewed papers in a digital online repository (often following an embargo period).

5 Gold Open Access – authors publish in an open access journal that provides immediate open access to all of its articles on the publisher’s website. This is likely to involve the payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs).

6 http://oro.open.ac.uk

Prepared 9th September 2013