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Finch review likely to back away from immediate open access

The Finch review on access to scientific publishing is likely to recommend that UK universities combine their purchasing power to lower the costs of accessing research Research Fortnight has learned.

This already happens in Scotland, where all 19 universities combine their purchasing power to buy access to journals. The idea of national digital libraries negotiating discounts with publishers is also common in the developing world, most recently in Pakistan. The Scottish Higher Education Digital Library was launched in 2009 and provides access to journals from publishers including the American Chemical Society and Oxford University Press. While major publishers such as the Nature Group and Elsevier do take part in bulk-purchase arrangements, discounts on prices are more likely to be offered if additional funding can be found from a third party, such as a government, or a philanthropic charity. It is not known if the Finch review team will recommend that the government should contribute to such deals.

The review team wants to move more quickly to a world where the public and small businesses can have better access to research online, however, members recognise that publishing and disseminating research is not a cost-free activity, and that there will need to be a period of transition in which traditional publishing lives alongside open access.

It appears that the review, commissioned by the government and chaired by Janet Finch, former vice chancellor at Keele university, will focus more on the role of funders and the government in funding open access publishing since there has been disappointing uptake so far.