The U.K.’s Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings issued its report this week. ‘Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to expand access to research publications’ is also known as the Finch report in honor of Professor Dame Janet Finch, a sociologist at the University of Manchester, who headed the group.
The report recommends that the U.K. “embrace the transition to open access, and accelerate the process in a measured way which promotes innovation but also what is most valuable in the research communication ecosystem.”
The model it suggests is mixed, but heavily weighted toward the “gold” model, or publication in Open Access (OA) journals funded by article processing charges, temporarily supported by extended licenses for subscription journals during the transition, and backstopped by repositories with a focus on preservation and access to “grey”, or non-commercially published, literature. “It is unlikely that either institutional or subject-based repositories could by themselves provide a satisfactory model for a research communications system,” the report says. “[…] Quality assurance through peer review, coupled with the wide range of discovery, navigation, linking and related services provided by publishers and other intermediaries are […] of critical importance.”
The report estimated that the cost of the transition would be an additional 50-60 million pounds per year: 38 million on publishing in open access journals, 10 million on extensions to licenses for the higher education and health sectors, and 3-5 million pounds on repositories, plus one-off transition costs of 5 million pounds.
Although the report focuses on U.K. policy, David Willetts, minister for universities and science, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, “There is a very lively debate about this in the US and I’ll be briefing members of the American research community and administration this week on what we’re doing on open access. If we can make it a shared European-American initiative, that would bring down the cost and it would be far better if we could all agree a way forward.”
Research Libraries U.K. (RLUK) generally welcomed the report, particularly the estimates of cost savings, but took issue with the 12 month embargo period it proposed. David Prosser, executive director of RLUK, said in a statement, “RLUK therefore strongly supports the recent OA proposals from the RCUK which incorporate a maximum embargo of six months for scientific research and sees no merit in the excessive embargoes suggested by the Finch Report.” (The Publishers Association, on the other hand, particularly welcomed the embargo recommendation, while praising the report in general; the association recently released a report claiming that a six month embargo period would cut journal subscriptions by almost half.)
In addition to academic libraries, the report is of particular interest to public libraries because of a proposal to provide walk-in access to the majority of journals via public libraries across the U.K., something the report says “should be pursued with vigor, along with an effective publicity and marketing campaign.”
The public library initiative is proposed to run for an initial two year trial to gather and analyze data on demand and usage. “Publishers hope to extend the service at the end of the two years if it has not led to any damaging loss of core revenues,” the Finch report says, noting, “the precise terms of what will be provided – whether access will be restricted to screens on library equipment, restrictions on copying to other devices, access to printing, and related matters – and issues such as discover-ability and whether access will be provided to all content via a single platform, have yet to be worked out. A working group of representatives of public libraries and of publishers has been established to consider these issues, and how the proposal can be implemented to best effect.”
For more reactions to the report, see INFOdocket.com.