The progressive erosion of the RCUK open access policy
February 22, 2013
Here’s a timeline of what’s happened with the RCUK’s open access policy (with thanks to Richard Van Noorden for helping to elucidate it).
March 2012: draft policy released for comment. As I noted in my submission, it was excellent. It did not accept non-commercial clauses (on either Gold or Green OA), and allowed Green-OA embagoes of no more than six months (with a twelve-month exception for two humanities councils). “It is anticipated that the revised policy will be adopted in summer 2012”
July 2012: actual policy released. Weakened to allow publishers to impose non-commercial clauses on Green OA. (They didn’t tell anyone they’d made this change, as far as I ever saw. I discovered it for myself.) “The policy applies to all research papers whose work was funded by RCUK being submitted for publication from 1 April 2013”
November 2012: RCUK announce that they will only fund APCs for 45% of articles as Gold OA.
January 2013: RCUK announce that they “will not enforce” embargo periods.
February 2013: In response to House of Lords enquiry, RCUK clarifes “that it will gradually phase in its open access policy over a five year implementation phase”. BIS and RCUK both endorse embargo-period “decision tree” that allows embargoes of up to two years.
At every single step of the way, the RCUK policy has been weakened. From being the best and most progressive in the world, it’s now considerably weaker than policies already in action elsewhere in the world, and hardly represents an increment on their 2006 policy. Crucially, all three of the key differences discussed in March’s draft policy have now been eliminated:
- “Specifically stating that Open Access includes unrestricted use of manual and automated text and data mining tools; and unrestricted reuse of content with proper attribution.” — not if you use Green OA.
- “Requiring publication in journals that meet Research Council ‘standards’ for Open Access.” — this will not be enforced.
- “No support for publisher embargoes of longer than six months from the date of publication (12 months for research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)).” — no, embargoes of up to 24 months allowed even in the sciences.
Can anyone doubt that the nobbling of a truly progressive policy was the result of lobbying by a truly regressive publishing industry? It’s been a tragedy to watch this policy erode away from something dramatic to almost nothing. Once more, it’s publishers versus everyone else.
Again, I have to ask this very simple question: why do we tolerate the obvious conflict of interest in allowing publishers to have any say at all in deciding how our government spends public money on publication services?