Carat and stick: no hard targets for gold open access

Research Councils UK has insisted it will not punish universities that publish a lower proportion of gold open access papers than it envisaged in its allocation of block grants for article fees – provided the block grants are not misused.

December 2, 2012

RCUK recently announced that it would provide universities with a block grant for the payment of “gold” open access article fees which would increase every year for next five years.

It envisaged that its provision in 2013-14 would allow 45 per cent of RCUK-funded research to be published under the gold open access route. This will rise to 53 per cent in the following year and to 75 per cent by 2017-18.

But Tim Blackman, pro vice-chancellor for research, scholarship and quality at the Open University, told the Academy of Social Science’s Implementing Finch conference this week that his institution had calculated that its block grant would only allow it to publish around per cent of its research council-funded research available via gold open access in 2013-14, and 32 per cent in 2014-15.

“That is quite a gap and we are not sure how we will fill it,” he said.

But a spokeswoman for RCUK said its figures for gold-take up were not hard targets to which universities would be held. Rather, they were the proportions RCUK estimated would be achievable.

She said that, technically, all research council-funded papers were required to be open access, either via gold or the self-archiving “green” route, but RCUK accepted that “this is a rapidly moving policy area and it is creating quite a big culture shift in a relatively short space of time”. For this reason, it accepted the next five years would be a “transition period”, she added.

“We expect higher education institutions to [comply with] the spirit of the policy and strive for 100 per cent compliance, but we realise it will be difficult in the short term to ensure that," the spokeswoman said.

Dame Janet Finch pointed out that the report of the group of publishers, librarians and university figures that she had chaired – popularly known as the Finch Report – had not called for an instant transition to open access.

“We said there should be a mixed economy for the foreseeable future. It will be a long time if ever we get 100 per cent gold open access, even in the UK,” she said.

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