Green OA Is Golden

A new report lauds the UK government’s commitment to open access, but calls its early devotion to the gold model a “mistake.”

By | September 10, 2013

WIKIMEDIA, PLOSThe British government’s commitment to increasing public access to published research is a worthy but expensive cause, according to a report out today (September 10) from the House of Commons’ Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee. The group noted in a statement that while the “gold” model of open access (OA)—in which project funders, and not study authors, cover publishing costs—is “a desirable ultimate goal, focusing on it during the transition to a fully open access world is a mistake.”

In its report, the BIS committee called on the government and the United Kingdom Research Councils (RCUK) to reconsider their preference for gold OA during the move to open access. “For the U.K. to transition to open access, an effective, functioning, and competitive market in scholarly communications will be vital,” the committee noted. “The evidence we saw over the course of this inquiry shows that this is currently far from the case, with journal subscription prices rising at rates that are unsustainable for UK universities and other subscribers.” The BIS committee added that, as it stands, the government’s open access policy might actually “encourage and prolong the dysfunctional elements of the scholarly publishing market.”

“The reason we have set a clear preference for gold open access is to make sure we do not lose sight of the ultimate destination,” a BIS spokesperson told Nature. “But we agree green has an important part to play and have adopted a ‘mixed economy’ approach for now.”

Over at his blog, Richard Poynder noted that whether the report’s recommendations will be acted upon remains unclear. “Nevertheless, OA advocates are confident that the government and RCUK will have little choice but to listen to the committee,” he wrote.

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Avatar of: StevanHarnad


Posts: 5

September 10, 2013

Some Reflection from Wellcome Would be Welcome

It's time for the Wellcome Trust to think more deeply about its endlessly repeated mantra that the "cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research." 

The statement is true enough, but profoundly incomplete: As a private foundation, Wellcome only funds researchers' research. It does not have to fund their institutional journal subscriptions, which are currently paying the costs of publication for all non-OA research. And without access to those subscription journals, researchers would lose access to everything that is not yet Open Access (OA) -- which means access to most of currently published research worldwide. Moreover, if those subscriptions stopped being paid, no one would be paying the costs of publication.

In the UK, it is the tax-payer who pays the costs of publication (which is "part of the cost of funding research"), by paying the cost of journal access via institutional subscriptions. It is fine to wish that to be otherwise, but it cannot just be wished away, and Wellcome has never had to worry about paying for it.

The Wellcome slogan and solution -- the "cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research," so pay pre-emptively for Gold OA -- works well enough for Wellcome, and as a wish list. But it is not a formula for getting us all from here (c. 30% OA, mostly Green) to there (100% OA). It does not scale up from Wellcome to the UK, let alone to the rest of the world. 

What scales up is mandating Green OA. Once Green OA reaches 100% globally, journals can be cancelled, forcing them to downsize and convert to Fair Goldsingle-paid at an affordable, sustainable price, instead of double-paid pre-emptively at today's arbitrarily inflated Fools-Gold price.

Hence it is exceedingly bad advice on Wellcome's part, to urge the UK, that because the "cost of publication is part of the cost of funding research," the UK should double-pay (subscriptions + Gold OA) for what Wellcome itself only needs to single-pay. (And this is without even getting into the sticky question of overpricing and double-dipping.)

Wellcome took a bold and pioneering step in 2004 in mandating OA.

But in since cleaving unreflectively and unresponsively to pre-emptive payment for Gold OA as the preferred means of providing OA -- because Wellcome does not have to pay for subscriptions -- the net effect of the Wellcome pioneering intiative is now beginning to turn negative rather than positive.

I hope the BIS Report will encourage Wellcome to re-think the rigid route that it has been promoting for a decade, culminating in the Finch Fiasco.

Avatar of: mohaarar


Posts: 1

September 11, 2013


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