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Librarians set sights on open access REF submissions

The UK’s major research librarians are to intensify their pressure on publishers, funding agencies and policymakers to ensure that publicly-funded research is available in open access repositories, according to their strategic plan published earlier this week.

Research Libraries UK, a network of libraries of the Russell Group universities and national libraries, has already warned journal publishers Wiley and Elsevier that they will not renew subscriptions at current prices.

One of the aims of its three-year plan, published on 23 August, is “shaping ethical and effective publishing”. This includes extending “our well established commitment to support open access to research outputs”.

Executive Director David Prosser said in a telephone interview with Research Fortnight Today that the group is in discussion with the Higher Education Funding Council for England to see if the rules for the Research Excellence Framework could include a requirement that papers submitted to the REF be made available in open access repositories.

RLUK, he said, is also talking to research councils to see if their contracts with research grantees can be amended to ensure that all outputs are publicly available in addition to being available in a commercial journal.

Prosser said that librarians on their own will not make change happen, and that Research Libraries UK will continue to work with parliament and government, and eventually would like to see a situation similar to the US—where the US Congress has legislated that research funded by the National Institutes of Health be made available in open access repositories.

Prosser added if HEFCE decided that REF materials should be made open access, librarians had the technical infrastructure in place to make it happen.

“The REF is the best of UK research. We should be proud of it, promote it and have all universities be able to access it,” he said.

UK universities, according to RLUK, spend almost £200 million on access to journals and databases—10 per cent of quality-related funding. But Prosser said that the issue is not solely about money: in the long run librarians want to see a change to the publishing business model so that the public should not have to pay to access publicly-funded research.