Open to abuse? We do it to ourselves

February 21, 2013

Yet more catastrophic timidity from the UK’s universities, this time over open access (“Fool’s gold?”, 14 February). The system being proposed is one in which universities and academics will gain funding for research, carry it out, peer-review the findings and edit the journals in which they are published. They will then pay publishers for the privilege but will receive nothing for the time they spend editing and reviewing the work.

Given that many universities already have institutional repositories for their research and regularly arrange peer-review of academic work for the purposes of promotion and preparing for the research excellence framework, why are they not threatening to walk away from existing publishing arrangements and find their own path to open access? (Especially in light of the negative effects of the existing proposals outlined in Times Higher Education.) It is equally baffling that the government sees the gold open- access plans as an efficient use of public money.

This could be yet another initiative in the long history of higher education policy that has the potential to severely damage the sector - but only with the active cooperation and participation of universities and academics. Oh well, at least we will be able to moan even more about the dreadful things that are done to us: it is just a shame that so many of them are also partly done by us.

Paul Ashwin
Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation
Department of educational research
Lancaster University

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