This conference was hosted by the Academy of Social Sciences and looked at the implementation of the recommendations of the Finch Review for Open Access publishing in the UK.I attended the first day of the conference which focused on the impact for those involved in the arts, humanities and social sciences. It was an informative day and it was particularly interesting to hear the sharp differences in opinion voiced by PVCs, administrators, librarians and individual researchers.
A full report by the Academy with photos, presentations and video will shortly be available at http://www.acss.org.uk/ but I have included a few short summaries of the key speakers below.
The authors of the Finch report were an independent group commissioned by government. The Government had a clear objective of what they wanted to achieve and the group were asked to advise on this. They were not there to debate whether change was necessary or advisable. It was not part of their remit to look at data, only peer reviewed publications (journal articles). It was seen as a moral imperative that if the tax payer pays, the tax payer should be able to access the research.
The main recommendation of the working group was a mixed economy between subscription journals and ‘author pays’ for foreseeable future. The balance should shift over time. The Finch report did not say that we should immediately move to gold open access, simply that policy should be set in this direction. It was envisaged that University presses will have an increasing role in the future. The transition should be gradual to avoid destabilisation. Disciplines will have to move at different speeds to accommodate these changes. Positive engagement is needed, particularly in the Arts & Humanities.
It was envisaged that University presses will have an increasing role in the future. The transition should be gradual to avoid destabilisation. Disciplines will have to move at different speeds to accommodate these changes. Positive engagement is needed, particularly in the Arts & Humanities.
Paul Hubbard (Head of Research Policy, HEFCE)
Academic publishing is at a crossroads. In the print age the subscription journal had an important role to play but it is no longer necessary. The business model will have to change. HEFCE are very keen on institutional repositories because they ensure sustainability and cement the notion that it is the job of the research community to look after their output.
It was suggested that for REF 2020 items should be as freely available as possible, with regard to practical constraints and to requirements and policies of other research funders. Considerations for REF 2020 would include the format of the text and the level of open access (likely to be gold). Due time would have to be allowed for compliance, monitoring and verification. It was emphasized that none of this had implications for REF 2014.
Charlotte Waelde (Professor of Intellectual Property Law, Exeter)
It was hoped that copyright would play a small but key part in the open access landscape, but in fact it has no part. The law of copyright is not an impediment to the Finch implementations. But attribution is still vital as is respecting the integrity of the work. It was deemed vital to get the chain of permissions correct so third parties can use with confidence. CC BY is suggested as the best Creative Commons licence to use in the Finch report. CC BY means that credit is required for the author, moral rights are not affected, and the content can be shared, remixed, and used commercially. This enables broadest possible use by third parties.
Jude England (Head of Social Sciences, The British Library)
She discussed the implications of Finch for libraries but emphasized that the Finch report sits within the changing information landscape. The focus of her talk was on libraries of the future and what they will need to do to adapt. The role of libraries has changed, as has the physical appearance. There is now more collaborative space, longer opening hours, and more electronic provision. In terms of the growing areas of data management, rights and permissions management, and open access, it was crucial that libraries should provide training for staff and students in what all of this means.
The speed of transition from print to digital was discussed and it was suggested that by 2017 no print-only journals would exist and only a small percentage would exist in parallel with digital editions. How will libraries cope with the huge digital storage requirements?
Open Access was viewed as eventually resolving the issues of access, permissions, authentication barriers, subscriptions etc. that libraries always have to think about. In an open access future librarians would need to advise and help with discoverability. It was envisaged that OA would reduce the importance of libraries in developing institutional collections but increase role of managing the institutional repository. Libraries would increasingly need to work together to share functions and resources. Librarians would play a significant role in helping students understand the new landscape.
Lynne Brindley (Former Chief Executive, The British Library)
The Finch report was described as a ‘tour de force’ and praised for raising consciousness of open access. It was acknowledged that the path to implementation was contestable and that it was vital to make the transition without imploding the system.
Gold OA means that publishers receive the revenues from authors rather than those who read the articles. Research articles are freely accessible and conditions around reuse are minimal.
Green OA is seen as the only true route for many OA advocates. Articles in post-print version are made available in institutional repositories subject to embargoes.
How does this apply to arts and humanities? The focus of Finch was journal articles but they do not represent the highest volume of research output for the arts and humanities. Research monographs must be included in the wider debate, as must the peer review process.
Lynne discussed four key areas:
1. Institutional publication funds. How is the mechanism for allocation going to work in the individual university? Who is going to decide and how transparent will this process be? Will the library budget be raided?
2. Learned societies. If the subscription model goes, what happens to the other activities of the society? They would need adequate time for adjustment.
3. Big commercial publishers. Does the Finch report hand publishers victory on a plate? Will we be paying twice? Paying journals up front (APCs) feels like a defeat for green OA advocates.
4. Libraries. Opportunities and threats. They have long played a role in licence negotiations and are now involved in institutional repositories. How sustainable will repositories be in the new environment? Services will have to develop to support the publication fund.
She concluded by saying that it is disappointing that there is no implementation plan because the report has given an impetus to progress. A more extended period for awareness raising would be ideal.