Research Councils UK should adopt the same exception to its open access policy as the UK funding bodies to relieve confusion.
That is one of the recommendations of RCUK’s first independent review of its open access policy, published on 26 March.
The policy came into force in April 2013 but controversy over some of its provisions led RCUK to commit to a series of reviews, starting in 2014.
The review panel, chaired by former University of Leicester vice-chancellor Sir Bob Burgess, concludes that it is too early to assess the effects of many aspects of the policy, such as embargo periods and licensing.
However, many of the 85 submissions to the review spoke of being “overwhelmed” by the various open access policies that funders have adopted in recent years, “leading to researchers ultimately not engaging with open access at all as it [is] perceived as being ‘too difficult’ ”.
The panel, which includes learned societies, publishers and librarians, says funders should highlight where their policies are equivalent and differ because even when they believed their policies were similar, this was not always the perception.
According to Sir Bob, a good example was the UK funding bodies’ open access requirements for articles submitted to the next research excellence framework. This was drafted to avoid clashes with RCUK’s policy, but contains an exception where “the publication concerned actively disallows open-access deposit in a repository, and was the most appropriate publication for the output”. The review advises RCUK to adopt this wording during its policy’s five-year transition period to “increase ‘buy-in’ for the open access agenda”.
The report warns that another “barrier to implementation and ‘buy-in’ ” is created by RCUK’s stated preference for journal-provided gold open access during the transition. This puts it at odds with universities and disciplines that have an established preference for green.
RCUK will respond formally to the recommendations in the summer. The next review will be in 2016.