Re: RCUK policy on open access

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2006 16:35:13 +0100

The UK -- which had the undisputed leadership of the world in setting Open
Access policy worldwide -- may now be losing that lead, allowing itself
instead to get needlessly side-tracked and bogged down in irrelevant
diversions and digressions, designed solely to delay the optimal and
inevitable (and obvious, and already long overdue).

Peter Suber's comments (quoted below) are spot-on, and say
it all. The ball, already dropped by NIH in the US and perhaps
now by the RCUK in the UK too, will now pass to the European Commission
and -- more importantly -- to the distributed network of individual
universities and other research institutions worldwide. The leaders
now are the institutions that have not sat waiting for national funder
mandates in order to go ahead and mandate OA self-archiving,
but have already gone ahead and mandated it themselves:

What we should remind ourselves is that if the physics community -- way
back in 1991, and the computer science community from even earlier --
had been foolish enough to wait for the outcome of the kind of vague,
open-ended study now planned by RCUK/RIN, instead of going ahead and
self-archiving their research, we would have lost 500,000 (physics) plus
750,000 (computer science) OA articles'-worth of research access, usage and
impact for the past decade and a half.

The Wellcome Trust -- -- has
had the vision and good sense to go ahead and mandate what had already
empirically demonstrated its positive benefits for research with no
negative effects on publishing on the basis of 15+ years worth of
objective evidence.

The RCUK seems to prefer endless open-ended dithering...

                              -- Your Impatient Archivangelist

Excerpted from Peter Suber's Open Access News

    The RCUK has announced an Analysis of data on scholarly journals
    publishing to be undertaken jointly with the RIN (Research
    Information Network) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry).

Comments by Peter Suber:

    "(1) The RCUK has not said whether it will wait to announce the
    final version of its OA policy until the new study is complete and
    fully digested. But it looks as though it will. It looks as though
    the voices calling for delay have prevailed.

    "(2) Remember that the RCUK's draft OA policy -- -- is already
    based on extensive fact-finding from the House of Commons
    Science and Technology Committee and summarised in its
    well-known report, "Scientific Publications: Free For All?":

    "(3) The only relevant evidence not yet unearthed by previous
    studies is on the effect of high-volume OA archiving on journal
    subscriptions -- outside physics, where we already know that
    high-volume OA archiving is either harmless or synergistic with
    journal subscriptions. But we cannot gather evidence on this question
    until we stimulate high-volume OA archiving in a field other than
    physics, e.g. by adopting a policy something like the RCUK's draft OA
    policy. Let's get on with it, adopt the policy, monitor the effects
    carefully, and be prepared to amend as needed.

    "(4) Why does the list of "all the key stakeholders" omit researchers
    and universities?"

                                             -- Peter Suber, OA News

Excerpts from the RCUK announcement:
    "This study got off the ground in mid-April 2006 and should conclude
    by the middle of summer.  It is being undertaken on behalf of the
    three joint funders by Electronic Publishing Services Ltd (EPS), in
    association with Loughborough University Department of Information
    Science.  The aim is to assist in UK domestic policy-making, by
    reviewing information about scholarly journal publishing, assessing
    the data available about the process and the reliability of that data.
    "The main purpose of the study is to gain more reliable information
    about the operation of the journal publishing aspects of the
    scholarly communications process and its costs.  The study focuses
    specifically on journal publishing, but it should be viewed in the
    context of a projected body of work involving all key stakeholders
    in the context of the scholarly communications framework.  This is
    likely to include related but separate studies of other aspects of
    scholarly communications, including for instance the development,
    funding and viability of digital repositories.
    "The key objective of the project is to provide the three sponsors of
    the study, and other stakeholders in the scholarly journals industry,
    with an accurate review of reliable and objective information about
    the journals publishing process....
    "Scholarly journal publishing is a key component of the spectrum
    of functions and activities that form part of the scholarly
    communications process.  This has been the focus of much interest
    lately, in particular because of the considerable interest generated
    by recent debates on open access.  Although this level of debate has
    provided a welcome opportunity to consider challenges relating to the
    dissemination of research outputs, it has also been characterised by
    a degree of mutual suspicion and misunderstanding stemming from the
    often conflicting positions of the different actors and stakeholders
    with an interest in these issues. There has also been tension over
    the quality and completeness of the information and data that the
    different stakeholders have used in support of their respective
    positions.  As a result of these tensions and suspicions, it has
    been difficult to achieve a consensus on how best to exploit
    the potential of new technology for enhancing the scholarly
    communications process and its cost-effectiveness.  This has had
    implications for the development of public policy, as evidenced by
    the debates surrounding the Wellcome Trust's policy on open access,
    and the delay in agreeing a definitive RCUK position statement.
    "In this context, there is a clear need for objective information that
    all stakeholders can agree upon as a means of defining and achieving
    common goals in scholarly communications.  The DTI-sponsored Research
    Communications Forum has provided a useful arena for the exchange of
    information and views.  The recently-created scholarly communications
    group facilitated by the RIN will work collaboratively to identify key
    issues in scholarly communications and gaps in our understanding,
    and to develop a better, evidence-based understanding of these
    issues - for instance, the development, funding and viability of
    digital repositories - as a basis for informing public policy.
    This group includes representatives of all the key stakeholders
    (notably the Research Councils, the library community, publishers,
    the RIN and key Government Departments such as the DTI and OST).
    The current study, focused on scholarly journal publishing - which
    has been the focus of some of the more lively debate - will be timely
    contribution to the development of understanding in the field of
    scholarly communications as a whole."
Received on Wed Apr 26 2006 - 20:09:42 BST

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