UCL embraces open access with institution-wide mandate

June 4, 2009

University College London has become the latest British institution to introduce a mandatory open-access repository for its scholars' work in what is a growing international trend.

The institution announced this week that all its researchers will have to deposit their papers in UCL's online repository, where they will be accessible free of charge.

Deposits are subject to copyright permissions, however, and there is no penalty for non-compliance.

Michael Jubb, director of the Research Information Network (RIN), which promotes the information needs of researchers, said UCL's move marked a watershed.

"It is not an absolute requirement and there are fudges, but I think it is significant and will lead to other institutions doing so," he said.

UCL is the most prestigious university in the UK to introduce an institution-wide open-access mandate so far. It is estimated to be the 35th university to do so worldwide.

Domestically, it follows in the footsteps of the University of Southampton and five Scottish institutions, including Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Paul Ayris, director of UCL Library Services, said that there was already a broad take-up of open access at the university and that UCL's mandate could offer a model for others to follow.

He added that the institution had made the change to ensure that journal subscriptions did not become a barrier to the use of research.

Meanwhile, an RIN conference last week discussed how open-access mandates were working.

Dr Jubb said that educating researchers about the approach was a "huge" issue.

"Most aren't well informed about what open access means, why it is being promoted, what they have to do and the details of how they deposit," he said.

The growth in British universities embracing open-access schemes has been steady since the first departmental mandate was introduced at Southampton in 2002.

This trend poses a significant challenge to publishers' business plans.

In the US, big-name universities that have joined the movement include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has an institutional mandate, and various faculties at Harvard University.

However, it remains to be seen whether the universities of Oxford and Cambridge will take up the open-access approach.

A spokeswoman for Oxford said the institution had been developing a voluntary institutional repository.

"Mandated deposits would be a matter for the academic community within the university to consider and decide upon," she said.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com.

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