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UK should embrace OA but process is complex, says Finch report

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The Finch report into access in the UK has sparked plenty of online debate since its release earlier this week. The report came out in support of enabling greater access to research findings for both researchers and members of the public. ‘Our view is that the UK should 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 communications ecosystem,’ said the report.

Amongst the recommendations were the need for clear policy direction; more effective and flexible arrangements to meet the costs of publishing in open-access and hybrid journals; and policies to minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use, especially for non-commercial purposes, and on the ability to use the latest tools and services to organise and manipulate text and other content.

The report also recommended transitional measures such as funding for access to content not available under an open-access model; walk-in access to journals from public libraries across the country; and discussions about the costs of big deals and other subscriptions in light of shifting publication models.

In addition, further experimentation into open-access monographs was advised, along with development of repository infrastructure with enhanced interoperability, and work on digital preservation. The issue of embargo periods before articles can be made available under a green open-access model was noted as a matter for further consideration.

However, the report recognised that there will be financial and licensing implications for government, funding bodies and universities and that these issues require addressing. ‘Our best estimate is that achieving a significant and sustainable increase in access ...would require an additional £50-60m a year in expenditure from the HE [higher education] sector: £38m on publishing in open-access journals, £10m on extensions to licences for the HE and health sectors and £3-5m on repositories, plus one-off transition costs of £5m,’ said the report.

In addition, the position of learned societies and their reliance on publishing revenues to fund core activities was also noted, as was the need for international discussions.

As Dame Janet Finch noted in her introduction to the report, ‘There is no simple answer ... Indeed had there been a simple answer there would have been no need to undertake this exercise.’

Responses to the report have come from all parts of the industry. Here are a selection (in no order, more added as they emerge):

BIS

Nature Publishing Group

HEFCE

The Publishers Association

RLUK

Cameron Neylon

Institute of Physics

STM

UK Open Access Implementation Group

Stephen Curry

Universities UK