For open-access clarity, adopt rule on exception

RCUK review recommends aligning policy with that of UK funding bodies

March 26, 2015

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.

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Reader's comments (1)

HEFCE/REFEXCEPTION APPLIES TO OPEN ACCESS DATE, NOT TO DEPOSIT The HEFCE/REF exception is not to the deposit requirement but to the OA requirement, and that makes all the difference in the world. No publisher can block deposit; all they can do is embargo the date on which access to the deposit is set as Open Access (OA). All REF submissions must be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication -- embargo or no embargo. The length of the allowable OA embargo, and exemptions from it, are an entirely separate matter. Immediate-deposit allows a uniform mandate to be adopted by all institutions and funders, regardless of publisher OA embargo policy. Once deposited, even if embargoed, access to an individual copy for research purposes can nevertheless be requested and provided on a one-to-one basis by one click each from the requestor to request and one click from the author to comply, thanks to the institutional repositories' copy-request Button. But only if the papers are deposited. Sale, Arthur, Couture, Marc, Rodrigues, Eloy, Carr, Les and Harnad, Stevan (2014) Open Access Mandates and the "Fair Dealing" Button. In, Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.). University of Toronto Press.

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