Funding councils publish REF open-access proposals

The UK’s higher education funding councils will not express a preference for either green or gold open access in their submission rules for future research excellence frameworks.

February 25, 2013

The announcement has been made in the councils’ preliminary consultation document on open access, published today.

The document restates the councils’ commitment to requiring all outputs submitted to post-2014 REFs to be open access “where this is reasonably achievable”. However, it accepts that “it is not appropriate to express any preference [for gold or green] in the context of research assessment”.

The position is in contrast to that of the government and Research Councils UK, who have both expressed a strong preference for journal-provided gold open access over repository-provided green open access.

Under the proposals from all four of the UK funding councils, even papers published via the gold route must also be available in institutions’ own repositories: “This reflects our view of the significant role of institutional repositories in increasing sustainable and convenient public access to research.”

The final peer-reviewed text of all papers will have to be deposited immediately upon publication even if they are not made open access until an embargo period has passed.

The document does not express a view on how long those embargoes should be. It is also open minded about whether Creative Commons CC-BY licences should be required. However, it says papers must be presented in a form “allowing the reader to search for and re-use content (including by download and for text-mining) both manually and using automated tools, provided such re-use is subject to proper attribution”.

“While we expect that sufficient clarity and reassurance on embargoes and licences will be achieved through [RCUK’s ongoing] discussions, we welcome responses which address these issues,” it says.

RCUK’s stated policy requires CC-BY licences and maximum embargo lengths of six months for science and 12 months for other disciplines. However, it recently announced it would accept periods twice as long during a five-year transition period.

The funding councils accept that some exceptions to their open access rules will have to be made. These could be applied either to specific categories of material or on a case-by-case basis. Alternatively, the councils may stipulate that a certain proportion of submissions – perhaps 80 per cent – must be open access.

But they rule out giving a blanket exemption for entire subjects since “we consider that research in all subjects has equal importance and therefore equally merits receiving the benefits of open-access publication”.

Nor will researchers be permitted to retrospectively make open access only those papers they decide to submit to the REF, since “the primary objective of this proposal is to stimulate immediate open access”.

The funding councils also invite comments on whether it is feasible to require a certain percentage of monographs also to be available via repositories.

The preliminary consultation runs until 25 March. A full consultation, with firmer proposals, will be launched in late spring, with a final policy likely to be unveiled in the autumn.

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