The implementation of open access - Science and Technology Committee Contents

Chapter 4: Conclusions and Recommendations

34.  The lack of clarity in RCUK policy and guidance, and the consequent confusion, especially given the imminent start date of 1 April 2013, are unacceptable (paragraph 14).

35.  We welcome RCUK's clarification of its stance on the length of embargo periods in evidence to us, and its willingness to be flexible about the implementation of open access. We recommend that RCUK revise section six (implementation and compliance) of its policy guidance notes to include reference to the "five-year implementation phase" and state explicitly that it will take an incremental approach to compliance in this period. Furthermore, the guidance must make reference to the Publishers Association decision tree in order to dispel the widespread confusion about embargo periods (paragraph 16). (Recommendation 1)

36.  We recommend that RCUK gather evidence about the suitability of the creative commons attribution (CC-BY) licence for different disciplines (paragraph 18). (Recommendation 2)

37.  We commend RCUK's commitment to monitor international developments in open access—for example, whether gold is adopted by other countries—and willingness to amend its strategy accordingly. The Government must co-ordinate with other countries on open access policies (paragraph 20). (Recommendation 3)

38.  Whilst we would not wish to recommend that the Government should distort the market in this area, we urge the Government to consider how they can support learned societies in this transition. We are pleased that Mr Willetts is meeting representatives from learned societies for this very purpose (paragraph 28). (Recommendation 4)

39.  It is vital that RCUK closely monitors implementation of the Finch Group recommendations to ensure that the move to open access does not damage the UK's international reputation for scholarship—both for outstanding research and globally respected journals. As a minimum, the RCUK review of open access must consider the following:

(1)  whether different disciplines require different embargo periods, licences and primary models of publication, particularly in the light of evidence gathered about readership and citation half-lives;

(2)  whether the UK, in stating a preference for gold open access, is moving in the same direction as other countries which are mandating open access (but not necessarily gold open access);

(3)  whether article processing charges have adversely affected the number of international articles published in UK journals;

(4)  effects on the quality of peer review;

(5)  impact on the number of collaborations by UK researchers; and

(6)  effects on learned societies.

RCUK must remain vigilant beyond the planned 2014 review. We recommend that it commit, as a minimum, to a further review of the implications of its open access policy in 2016 and an end-stage assessment in 2018 (paragraph 29). (Recommendation 5)

40.  We recommend that the Government undertake a full cost-benefit analysis of the open access policy, particularly given the current economic climate and the consequent pressures on the public purse. This analysis must be updated to reflect actual rather than projected costs during the transition period (paragraph 30). (Recommendation 6)

41.  In the light of the significant confusion and perceptions that RCUK, at worst, "acted unilaterally", or, at least, consulted inadequately in devising its open access policy, we recommend that BIS undertake a review of how RCUK consulted over this significant change in policy with the scientific and publishing communities, to ensure that lessons are learnt (paragraph 33). (Recommendation 7)

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