Chapter: Factual Background |
The Finch Group
7. The Finch Group was set up following discussions
between the Universities and Science Minister, Rt Hon David Willetts MP,
and representatives of the research, library and publishing communities
about the Government's transparency agenda. Mr Willetts was
convinced that "research stimulates and fuels innovation
and economic growth" and that, as a result, "to maximise
UK innovation we need to maximise access to and the use of research
principle finding of the group was that the UK should "embrace"
the move towards open access and "accelerate the process
in a measured way", recognising that whilst there were clear
benefits from open access it was important not to de-stabilise
"what is most valuable in the research communications ecosystem".
The report made recommendations and proposed a number of actions
to facilitate this, supporting their general conclusion in favour
of a "mixed economy" of gold, green and hybrid open
Green open access is where a version of a publication
is made available free of charge to readers, often through
an online repository. Journals typically impose embargo
periods on the placing of publications in such repositories
to protect their subscription income and to secure a return
on their investment. Both subject and institution repositories
have been developed, and are particularly popular in certain
subjects such as astrophysics.
Gold open access is where published articles are
made available immediately and free of charge to readers.
In return the author (or their institution) pays an article
(APC) to the publisher.
Hybrid open access is where a publisher allow authors
to publish their paper in journals with subscriptions (and
behind pay walls online) in the traditional way, or to pay
an APC for it to be made available to readers free-of-charge,
Open access policies and funding
8. In July 2012, RCUK released its updated policy
on access to research outputs and associated guidance notes. The
policy said: "Peer reviewed research papers which result
from research that is wholly or partially funded by the research
councils must be published in journals" that allow: "immediate
and unrestricted access to the publisher's final version of the
paper", or "deposit of accepted manuscripts that include
all changes resulting from peer review" in repositories within
six months (or 12 months for Arts and Humanities Research Council
and Economic and Social Research Council funded research).
RCUK is persuaded that "at the current time, the Gold option
provides the best way of delivering immediate, non-restricted
access to research papers, which in turn provides potential value
to UK research and the broader UK economy". RCUK is not against
the green model and supports a "mixed approach to Open Access".
At the same time, the Higher Education Funding Council for England
(HEFCE) clarified that its research grant could be used for open
access and announced its intention to launch a consultation to
develop "a specific requirement that research outputs submitted
to a REF [Research Excellence Framework] exercise subsequent to
2014 shall, as far as it may be reasonable to require at the time,
be published in an open access form".
9. In September 2012, the Department for Innovation,
Business and Skills (BIS) announced "pump prime" publication
funds for 30 higher education institutions, with the aim of identifying
issues that others might encounter.
In November 2012, RCUK announced that it would introduce a block
grant for universities and certain research organisations to cover
the cost of APCs, from 1 April 2013. RCUK used direct labour costs
on grants received in the period April 2009-March 2012 to apportion
the fund by institution. A cut-off point was set so that only
institutions eligible for a block grant of £10, 000 or more
in year five of the funding would receive it.
RCUK estimated that 99% of research council funded research papers
would be produced in institutions eligible for a block grant.
10. Since this time, significant concerns have
been expressed by both academic and publishing communities. Researchers
are concerned about: limitations on academic freedom to publish;
the speed of transition to open access;
lack of APC funding for certain institutions;
and the decision to favour gold over green open accesswhich
is the preferred model of some other countries.
Publishers have expressed concern about lack of clarity over who
sets embargo periods where APC funding is not available to publish
publicly-funded research immediately,
and embargo periods more generally.
Learned societies have also expressed concern about the implications
of open access for their business models.
4 BIS press release: New working group to examine
research transparency, September 2011. Back
Op. cit. Accessibility, sustainability, excellence:
how to expand access to research publications. Back
Sometimes called an article publication charge. Back
RCUK: Research Councils UK Policy on Access to Research Outputs,
July 2012. Back
The Government. Back
RCUK, RCUK press release: RCUK announces block grants for universities
to aid drives to open access to research outputs, November
2012. On the assumption that the size of APC fund will grow annually
at the same rate. Back
QQ 19-20. Back
Q 18. Back
Open Humanities Press, Royal Astronomical Society, United Kingdom
Council of Research Repositories. Back
Professor Stephen Curry, Professor Stevan Harnad, Professor John
Helliwell, Open Humanities Press, Royal Historical Society of
the UK, University College London. Back
Q 41, press release by the Publishers Association: Finch,
Willetts, RCUK, Green OA, and embargoes, August 2012. Back
Q 39, Open letter from the editors of 21 UK history journals,
10 December 2012. Back
Q 10, Q 42, Association of Learned and Professional
Society Publishers (ALPSP), Association for Learning Technology,
British Academy, British Psychological Society, Geological Society
of London, Institute of Physics, Society of Biology. Back