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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.

#oa   #openaccess   #finchreport  
Stevan Harnad's profile photoKamal Mahawar's profile photo

1. The Finch Report is a successful case of lobbying by publishers to protect the interests of publishing at the expense of the interests of research and the public that funds research.

2. The Finch Report proposes doing precisely what the US Research Works Act (RWA) -- since discredited and withdrawn -- failed to do: to push "Green" OA self-archiving (by authors, and Green OA self-archiving mandates by authors' funders and institutions) off the UK policy agenda as inadequate and ineffective and, to boot, likely to destroy both publishing and peer review -- and to replace them instead with a vague, slow evolution toward "Gold" OA publishing, at the publishers' pace and price.

3. The result would be very little OA, very slowly, and at a high Gold OA price (an extra 50-60 million pounds per year), taken out of already scarce UK research funds, instead of the rapid and cost-free OA growth vouchsafed by Green OA mandates from funders and universities.

4. Both the resulting loss in UK's Green OA mandate momentum and the expenditure of further funds to pay pre-emptively for Gold OA would be a major historic (and economic) set-back for the UK, which has until now been the worldwide leader in OA. The UK would, if the Finch Report were heeded, be left behind by the EU (which has mandated Green OA for all research it funds) and the US (which has a Bill in Congress to do the same -- the same Bill that the recently withdrawn RWA Bill tried to counter).

5. The UK already has 40% Green OA -- twice as much as the rest of the world. Rather than heeding the Finch Report, which has so obviously fallen victim to the publishing lobby, the UK should shore up and extend its cost-free Green OA funder and institutional mandates to make them more effective and mutually reinforcing, so that UK Green OA can grow quickly to 100%.

6. Publishers will adapt. In the internet era, the research publishing tail should not be permitted to wag the research dog, at the expense of the access, usage, applications, impact and progress of the research in which the UK tax-payer has invested so heavily, in increasingly hard economic times. The benefits -- to research, researchers, their institutions, the vast R&D industry, and the tax-paying public -- of cost-free Green Open Access to publicly funded research vastly outweigh the (natural) pressure to adapt to the internet era that mandated Green OA will exert on the publishing industry.

Stevan Harnad
EnablingOpenScholarship (EOS)
Let us not forget Finch report is not the end of it all. It is clearly more established in the present than an attempt to lay out a vision for the future. That is clearly left to those who believe Open Access to science is a basic human right.
I don’t like these subscription based journals either and would prefer a world where all research was open access , but a lot of scientists like them and value what they provide (the impact and prestige). Behaviour of scientists has been a bit slow to change but we need to keep nudging them away from it and funders can help there by mandating publications in a certain environment.
At the same time, we can work with publishing industry to try and get the cost of Gold OA down to sane levels. Reinforcing “Gold” does not have to necessarily undermine “Green”, which in my opinion will need more support from scientific community and some shifts in attitudes to become fully successful.  Dissemination of research in this day and age is not a problem and can be done very cheaply. Dissemination of it in a particular journal of one’s choice with a particular impact factor and the desire to achieve that is at the root of all this. But on this desire works the whole world of academics and universities and it will not change overnight. That does not mean we don’t keep trying though.
Kamal Mahawar
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