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British Academy warns of risks from unfunded gold open access

Attempts to enforce the gold open access system in the UK without extra investment will damage the research base, the British Academy has warned.

In a 26 July statement the academy argues that calling on research funders and universities to pay up front for article processing charges (APCs) when publishing a research output will endanger the learned societies that publish academic journals, unless extra funds are released to cover the costs.

“Inadequate provision of funds for APCs will present universities with invidious choices, which could result in a rationing of publication and corresponding damage to the UK research base,” the academy says.

It has also warned that UK research could become “provincialised” if researchers funded in the UK are no longer allowed to publish in top overseas journals that do not comply with UK open access rules. This could lead to universities being “pushed down international rankings”, it adds.

Research Councils UK announced last month that all the work it funds must be published in journals that are compliant, either by allowing for APCs to be paid upfront and for articles to be made available for free immediately or for articles to be placed in an open access repository within six months of publication, or 12 months for the humanities—known as the green open access model.

The decision was welcomed by many as the start of the open access movement, but concerns have been raised that the government is providing no extra funds to make it happen. RCUK says the necessary funding will amount to 1-2 per cent of the science budget.

The academy also says that the Finch review of open access, which prompted the changed policy, “relates primarily to the natural and medical sciences … The humanities and many of the social sciences have quite different publishing models.

“Journal articles tend to be substantially longer and to have longer half-lives. And a dominant medium of research publication in most of these disciplines is the monograph or the collection of essays—for which, as the Finch Report acknowledges, an established and proven open access publishing model does not yet exist.”

It is therefore good to hear reassurances from business secretary Vince Cable that the government will not seek to impose a one-size-fits-all approach, it adds.

The academy says it wants to further explore the potential of the green open access model for the humanities and social sciences as the higher education funding councils consult on plans to make open access part of the Research Excellence Framework. It plans to look particularly at what should be an appropriate embargo period before a research output is published in an open access repository.