20 April 2015

All that glisters is not gold

Chaired by Sir Bob Burgess this independent review covers the first 16 months of RCUK's Open Access policy April 2013-July 2014. Although this seems a bit early, the review panel felt it was necessary to gather a baseline of evidence.  The timing also underpins its conclusion - that it's too early to properly assess many of the policy's impacts, particularly on embargoes and licensing.  This is the first of several reviews within the 5-year transition period. It is also the first since the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee published its September 2013 report criticising RCUK's preference for Gold Open Access.  The panel does not challenge RCUK's Gold preference, instead advocating a mixed Gold/Green model.

Detail from cover: Review of the implementation of the RCUK Policy on Open Access
Licensed under a Creative CommonsAttribution 4.0 International Licence
The thread of limited data collection for an evidence base runs through the report and the panel felt it relied on opinion more than it would have liked. This confirms the health warning in the St Andrews Compliance Data Report:
One particular area of difficulty is actually capturing complete and accurate information about all the publications which arise from Research Council-funded research.
Key recommendations
  • Compliance monitoring - improve data collection, mandate the use of Open Researcher and Contributor IDs (ORCIDs) in grant applications, introduce the possibility of including monographs in a future review.
  • Communication- improve dialogue between RCUK and researchers, publishers and HEIs, promotion of the mixed Green/Gold model and authors' right to choose the most appropriate publication.
  • Embargoes - more evidence to be collected, particularly in relation to reasonable embargo periods for Humanities and Social Sciences publications.
  • Licenses - CC-BY licenses are necessary for compliance and publishers should make authors aware of this default requirement at the point of need.
  • Administrative effort and costs - promotion of best practice sharing between HEIs and encourage use of standard terminology by publishers to avoid confusion around their policies. 
  • Block grant - exploration of using the block grant to incentivise less research-intensive institutions who nevertheless publish high quality research; likewise exploration on whether particular departments and disciplines within HEIs might be disadvantaged in the current allocation.
The RCUK Executive will respond to the recommendations shortly.  The next review will be in 2016. 

Although St Andrews is not listed in Annex C, it did contribute written evidence. St Andrews is already working with Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt on the Jisc LOCH Pathfinder project to establish and promote best practice.

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