Picture emerges over ‘gold’ open-access allocations

Universities deciding mechanisms to apportion RCUK cash

June 20, 2013

Source: Getty

It’s not hard to find: £100 million has been earmarked to underwrite the open-access transition

The first signs are emerging of how UK universities are earmarking the £100 million allocated by Research Councils UK to pay for open-access publishing.

Introduced in April, the block grant pays the article fees required by journals to make papers freely available instantly under the “gold” open-access model. The sum comes on top of an initial £10 million outlay awarded to 30 universities in 2012.

At a session of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators annual conference, held in Nottingham on 11 and 12 June, eight delegates indicated that their institutions had decided on the mechanisms to apportion the cash.

All said that the funding, which is allocated in proportion to how much institutions have charged the research councils in direct labour costs over the past three years and given above a £10,000 threshold, was being allotted on a “first come, first served” basis.

One delegate, who preferred not to be identified, said that this decision had been reached after “a lot of time and effort” considering a range of more strategic options. RCUK guidance says that the grant should be allocated “fairly” to researchers at all stages of their careers.

About two-thirds of those whose universities had a gold policy said they were topping up the RCUK cash from their institutional coffers.

Ray Kent, director of research, business and innovation at De Montfort University, said that institutions seemed to be publishing in “green” repositories by default, paying gold article processing charges only when there was no other option or it was the author’s preference.

Although open access was “done and dusted” for the government, this was “not necessarily the case for…universities”, he added, with questions remaining over whether institutions would make funding available beyond RCUK-sponsored researchers and how to pay for publishing collaborative research.

Universities were also finding other ways of adapting to the policy, he said, including academics starting their own journals and publishing in gold journals that did not charge article processing fees.

Meanwhile, a delegate told the session that she had received no response from RCUK about when her institution would have to report on how it had spent the cash and whether it would be possible to roll it forward from year to year.

Fiona Armstrong, deputy director of policy, resources and communications at the Economic and Social Research Council, said that the research councils were developing a specification that would set out reporting requirements in greater detail. Asked whether RCUK, like the Wellcome Trust, might consider sanctions for academics who did not comply, she said that this was not currently on the cards.

“We need to ensure [policy is] sensitive to the needs of different academic…disciplines,” she said, adding that open access was not as established in the arts as some sciences.

The UK’s transition to gold was recommended by the Finch report last year and accepted by the government, although RCUK allows both methods. It plans to carry out “a comprehensive, evidence-based review” of its open-access policy next year.


Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Reader's comments (1)

FINCH FOLLY FLAILS ON... All this fuss about how the UK Gold money is being spent -- double-paying publishers needlessly, over and above what UK institutions are already paying (steeply) for subscriptions -- while not a word about whether and how the cost-free Green alternative is being complied with by that vast majority of UK scholars and scientists who either don't have a suitable Gold journal to publish in, or do not want (or cannot afford) to pay for Gold... But if the HEFCE/REF proposal -- to mandate immediate-deposit in the author's institutional repository (but not necessarily immediate-OA) as a precondition for REF eligibility -- is adopted, it will serve as the compliance monitoring mechanism for Green, and the UK will have a sensible, viable, verifiable OA policy. Harnad, S. (2013) The UK's New HEFCE/REF OA Mandate Proposal. Open Access Archivangelism 987 http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/987-.html

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs


Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Track runner slow off the starting blocks

Lack of independent working blamed for difficulties making the leap from undergraduate to doctoral work

A keyboard with a 'donate' key

Richard Budd mulls the logic of giving money to your alma mater

Quality under magnifying glass

Hefce's new standards regime will enable universities to focus on what matters to students, says Susan Lapworth

Woman tearing up I can't sign

Schools and universities are increasingly looking at how improving personalities can boost social mobility. But in doing so, they may be forced to choose between teaching what is helpful, and what is true, says David Matthews

Door peephole painted as bomb ready to explode

It’s time to use technology to detect potential threats and worry less about outdated ideas of privacy, says Ron Iphofen