Finch Group report on OA in the UK

Full report ("Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications")

Executive summary

The Finch Group (official name, "Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings") was created in September 2011 by David Willetts, the UK Minister for Universities and Science.,62276,en.html

In the full report, there are 52 conclusions and recommendations (Chapter 8). One of them, 8.33, contains the 10 chief recommendations highlighted in the executive summary.

8.33. In sum, our conclusion is that, in order to maximise access for the greatest number of people to the greatest number of research publications, while sustaining high standards of usability, and the quality of the services provided to the UK research community, a number of measures are needed:

i. a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded;

ii. the Research Councils and other public sector bodies funding research in the UK should establish more effective and flexible arrangements to meet the costs of publishing in open access and hybrid journals;

iii. support for open access publication should be accompanied by policies to minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use, especially for noncommercial purposes, and on the ability to use the latest tools and services to organise and manipulate text and other content;

iv. during the period of transition to open access publishing worldwide, in order to maximise access in the HE and health sectors to journals and articles produced by authors in the UK and from across the world that are not accessible on open access terms, funds should be found to extend and rationalise current licences to cover all the institutions in those sectors;

v. the current discussions on how to implement the proposal for walk-in access to the majority of journals to be provided in public libraries across the UK should be pursued with vigour, along with an effective publicity and marketing campaign;

vi. representative bodies for key sectors including central and local Government, voluntary organisations, and business should work together with publishers, learned societies, libraries and others with relevant expertise to consider the terms and costs of licences to provide access to a broad range of relevant content for the benefit of consortia of organisations within their sectors; and how such licences might be funded;

vii. future discussions and negotiations between universities and publishers (including learned societies) on the pricing of big deals and other subscriptions should take into account the financial implications of the shift to publication in open access and hybrid journals, of extensions to licensing, and the resultant changes in revenues provided to publishers;

viii. universities, funders, publishers, and learned societies should continue to work together to promote further experimentation in open access publishing for scholarly monographs;

ix. the infrastructure of subject and institutional repositories should be developed so that they play a valuable role complementary to formal publishing, particularly in providing access to research data and to grey literature, and in digital preservation;

x. funders' limitations on the length of embargo periods, and on any other restrictions on access to content not published on open access terms, should be considered carefully, to avoid undue risk to valuable journals that are not funded in the main by APCs. Rules should be kept under review in the light of the available evidence as to their likely impact on such journals.

Bottom line: On the plus side, the Finch group  wants a massive shift to OA. It prefers immediate to embargoed OA, and it prefers libre to gratis OA. Some of its reasons for preferring gold to green OA are based on real virtues of gold. On the minus side, most of its reasons for preferring gold to green OA are based on a distorted and jaundiced view of green. The group implies that green cannot be libre (8.9, 8.28), which is false. It implies that green cannot be peer reviewed (8.26) which is false. It implies that green cannot be immediate or must be embargoed (8.28), which is false. It virtually disregards the role of green OA in disseminating peer-reviewed research and values green primarily for providing access to data, and access to grey literature, and preservation. One can see the effect of publisher lobbying on the group's misinformed disparagement of green OA and the group's high priority to save incumbent publishers from risk. More later.

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