The House of Lords on Open Access

This month, the House of Lords science committee is hearing evidence on the likely effects of the new Research Councils UK (RCUK) Open Access policy that will come into force in April this year for all RCUK-funded researchers.

The UK, and many other countries around the world are making this bold move to allow everyone open access to academic research because, in the long term, it will save money AND increase access to research for everyone. Currently the predominant mode of paying for the publication of research is via the subscription-access model – an inefficient system which benefits commercial publishers to the detriment of taxpayers.

Under the subscription model, taxpayer-funded research is given to publishers (for free) and the publishers sell access to this research to everyone, usually via annual subscription(s). The UK and all other countries thus have to rent access to research papers (many of which they produced themselves!) at an estimated global cost of $8 billion per year.

Under the ‘gold’ Open Access model, research is instead published either for an upfront fee or for no charge with institutional support, and made permanently free to access for everyone on the internet. This mode ensures more people have easy access to research and that the costs of publishing are met both upfront and transparently – a marked contrast from the Non-Disclosure Agreements that shroud many of the ‘Big Deal’ subscription-access agreements in secrecy. The ‘green’ route to Open Access whereby copies of research can be posted to research repositories after a short embargo period is also allowed under this policy.

There are concerns for some of the smaller details of this new policy and how it might affect particular groups like British Learned Societies, and thus the House of Lords are calling for written evidence submissions concerning these specific issues within the proposed plan:

  • support for universities through funds to cover article processing charges;
  • embargo periods for articles published under open access;
  • engagement with publishers, universities learned societies and other stakeholders in developing the new open access policies; and
  • how the Government should address the concerns raised by the scientific and publishing communities about the policy.

Any party interested in submitting written evidence should contact the Clerk to the Committee on hlscience@parliament.uk by the end of this week.

Example submissions include: Mike Taylor’s, 12 January 2013

I shall also be submitting some evidence ASAP.

The Committee will hold its final day of interview evidence on Tuesday 29 January when they will hear in-person from a number of witnesses including David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Science Universities, and Professor Rick Rylance, Chair of Research Councils UK.