Finch closed eyes to open alternatives

November 8, 2012

The evidence from Simon Lilley et al. of publishers earning excessive profits while reducing their tax bills raises further questions about the credibility of the Finch proposals for supporting open access ("Firm chose haven, let's give it hell"; "How publishers feather their nests on open access to public money", 1 November).

The failure of the Finch group to extract information on the returns gained by academic journal publishers (up to 50 per cent a year in some cases) while recommending that the government contribute to meeting the costs of article-processing fees displayed remarkable disregard for other approaches. The extra £60 million suggested as recompense to publishers for implementing open access via the "gold model" enables them to gain further at the expense of researchers whose cost-free exploitation is the source of their huge profits in the first place. This cannot be in the public interest.

The Finch committee ignored an important alternative to the gold and the rejected "green" (repository-based) model - cost-recovery journal publication by academics. And much as we applaud the logic of Lilley's case for transparency and control, he too bypasses it. The journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, of which we are editors, is now in its 10th issue and has 1,200 registered readers. To date it has been able to meet its costs (currently £15,000 a year) through grants and sponsorship. It has done so as an online offering via open source software with rigorous reviewing processes and without the need to maintain high profit margins and large numbers of marketing staff.

As we argued in our submission to the Finch committee, it would be better to use a substantial amount of the proposed £60 million to support this type of academic publishing to complement, if not replace, the current commercial system. But the Finch report's failure to even mention the strategy shows that the suggestion fell on deaf ears.

Rather than expending effort on attempting to implement the Finch report, we believe that it is not too late, if the research community shows willing, to go back to first principles of how knowledge dissemination is best managed and funded.

John Bynner, Emeritus professor of social sciences in education Institute of Education

Harvey Goldstein, Professor of social statistics, University of Bristol

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

Humboldt University, Berlin

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study