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<nettime> Guardian: Free access to British scientific research within tw
nettime's avid reader on Mon, 16 Jul 2012 16:29:00 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Guardian: Free access to British scientific research within two years


Free access to British scientific research within two years

   Radical shakeup of academic publishing will allow papers to be put
   online and be accessed by universities, firms and individuals

   The government is to unveil controversial plans to make publicly funded
   scientific [65]research immediately available for anyone to read for
   free by 2014, in the most radical shakeup of academic publishing since
   the invention of the [66]internet.

   Under the scheme, research papers that describe work paid for by the
   British taxpayer will be free online for universities, companies and
   individuals to use for any purpose, wherever they are in the world.

   In an interview with the Guardian before Monday's announcement
   [67]David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said he
   expected a full transformation to the open approach over the next two

   The move reflects a [68]groundswell of support for "open access"
   publishing among academics who have long protested that journal
   [69]publishers make large profits by locking research behind online
   paywalls. "If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that
   work shouldn't be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can
   read it," Willetts said.

   "This will take time to build up, but within a couple of years we
   should see this fully feeding through."

   He said he thought there would be "massive" economic benefits to making
   research open to everyone.

   Though many academics will welcome the announcement, some scientists
   contacted by the Guardian were dismayed that the cost of the
   transition, which could reach £50m a year, must be covered by the
   existing science budget and that no new money would be found to fund
   the process. That could lead to less research and fewer valuable papers
   being published.

   British universities now pay around £200m a year in subscription fees
   to journal publishers, but under the new scheme, authors will pay
   "article processing charges" (APCs) to have their papers peer reviewed,
   edited and made freely available online. The typical APC is around
   £2,000 per article.

   Tensions between academics and the larger publishing companies have
   risen steeply in recent months as researchers have baulked at journal
   subscription charges their libraries were asked to pay.

   [70]More than 12,000 academics have boycotted the Dutch publisher
   Elsevier, in part of a broader campaign against the industry that has
   been called the "academic spring".

   The government's decision is outlined in a formal response to
   recommendations made in [71]a major report into open access publishing
   led by Professor Dame Janet Finch, a sociologist at Manchester
   University. Willetts said the government accepted all the proposals,
   except for a specific point on VAT that was under consideration at the

   Further impetus to open access is expected in coming days or weeks when
   the [72]Higher Education Funding Council for England emphasises the
   need for research articles to be freely available when they are
   submitted for the Research Excellence Framework, which is used to
   determine how much [73]research funding universities receive.

   The Finch report strongly recommended so-called "gold" open access,
   which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by
   essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science
   budgets. One alternative favoured by many academics, called "green"
   open access, allows researchers to make their papers freely available
   online after they have been accepted by journals. It is likely this
   would be fatal for publishers and also Britain's learned societies,
   which survive through selling journal subscriptions.

   "There is a genuine value in academic publishing which has to be
   reflected and we think that is the case for gold open access, which
   includes APCs," Willetts told the Guardian. "There is a transitional
   cost to go through, but it's overall of benefit to our research
   community and there's general acceptance it's the right thing to do.

   "We accept that some of this cost will fall on the ring-fenced science
   budget, which is £4.6bn. In Finch's highest estimation that will be 1%
   of the science budget going to pay for gold open access, at least
   before we get to a new steady state, when we hope competition will
   bring down author charges and universities will make savings as they
   don't have to pay so much in journal subscriptions," he added.

   "The real economic impact is we are throwing open, to academics,
   researchers, businesses and lay people, all the high quality research
   that is publicly funded. I think there's a massive net economic benefit
   here way beyond any £50m from the science budget," Willetts said.

   In making such a concerted move towards open access before other
   countries, Britain will be giving its research away free while still
   paying for access to articles from other countries.

   Willetts said he hoped the EU would soon take the same path when it
   announced the next tranche of Horizon 2020 grants, which are available
   for projects that run from 2014. The US already makes research funded
   by its National Institutes of Health open access, and is expected to
   make more of its publicly funded research freely available online.

   [74]Professor Adam Tickell, pro-vice chancellor of research and
   knowledge transfer at Birmingham University, and a member of the Finch
   working group, said he was glad the government had endorsed the
   recommendations, but warned there was a danger of Britain losing
   research projects in the uncertain transition to open access

   "If the EU and the US go in for open access in a big way, then we'll
   move into this open access world with no doubt at all, and I strongly
   believe that in a decade that's where we'll be. But it's the period of
   transition that's the worry. The UK publishes only 6% of global
   research, and the rest will remain behind a paywall, so we'll still
   have to pay for a subscription," Tickell said.

   "I am very concerned that there are not any additional funds to pay for
   the transition, because the costs will fall disproportionately on the
   research intensive universities. There isn't the fat in the system that
   we can easily pay for that." The costs would lead to "a reduction in
   research grants, or an effective charge on our income" he said.

   Another consequence of the shift could be a "rationing" of research
   papers from universities as competition for funds to publish papers
   intensifies. This could be harmful, Tickell said. For example, a study
   that finds no beneficial effect of a drug might be seen as negative
   results and go unpublished, he said.

   [75]Stevan Harnad, professor of electronics and computer science at
   Southampton University, said the government was facing an expensive
   bill in supporting gold open access over the green open access model.

   He said UK universities and research funders had been leading the world
   in the movement towards "green" open access that requires researchers
   to self-archive their journal articles on the web, and make them free
   for all.

   "The Finch committee's recommendations look superficially as if they
   are supporting open access, but in reality they are strongly biased in
   favour of the interests of the publishing industry over the interests
   of UK research," he said.

   "Instead of recommending that the UK build on its historic lead in
   providing cost-free green open access, the committee has recommended
   spending a great deal of extra money -- scarce research money -- to pay
   publishers for "gold open access publishing. If the Finch committee
   recommendations are heeded, as David Willetts now proposes, the UK will
   lose both its global lead in open access and a great deal of public
   money -- and worldwide open access will be set back at least a decade,"
   he said.


  65. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/research
  66. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/internet
  67. http://www.bis.gov.uk/ministers/david-willetts
  68. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/09/frustrated-blogpost-boycott-scientific-journals
  69. http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/24/harvard-university-journal-publishers-prices?intcmp=239
  70. http://thecostofknowledge.com/
  71. http://www.researchinfonet.org/publish/finch/
  72. http://www.hefce.ac.uk/
  73. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/researchfunding
  74. http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/university/adam-tickell.aspx

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