An optimal balance of Green and Gold: what do our stakeholders think?

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

This was originally posted on our Jisc OA Pathfinder blog. Our project seeks to “develop shared tools and best practice policies and procedures to enable HEIs with limited external funding to effectively and creatively respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by recent Open Access policies”.

balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0
balance by Hans Splinter CC BY-ND 2.0

“Last week Ellen Cole and I travelled up to Edinburgh to take part in the Repository Fringe, an annual event for information professionals, developers, repository and research managers to discuss and share ideas and issues around repositories and open access.

Along with the other Jisc OA Pathfinders, we were asked to talk about our project and the work we plan to do. Our workshop focused on a few key questions which have arisen from our project team’s initial discussions as well as the work that we’ve already undertaken around open access advocacy and policy development:

  1. In our institutional OA policymaking, do we aim to strike an “optimal balance” between Green and Gold OA, or do we favour one over the other?
  2. Do all stakeholders in our institutions see this the same way as us?
  3. As institutions with limited resources to address the challenges posed by OA, can we use these policies to positively influence other aspects of our institutional culture, e.g. publishing behaviour?

After a brief introduction to these questions and the project, the participants split into groups and discussed who the key open access stakeholders were in each of their institutions, what their motivations were for engaging with OA, and what they wanted to achieve with OA. Each table-based group included a mix of institutions and perspectives, including participants from HEFCE, RCUK, JISC and other non-HEIs so there was a really good mix of views. Here are a few commonly occurring stakeholders, grouped by internal/external to HEIs:

Internal HE Stakeholders

  • Research admin/managers
  • Library staff
  • IT
  • Finance
  • University/Faculty/School senior managers
  • Researchers (but see below on the distinctions that can be drawn here)
  • Legal office
  • Comms/Marketing
  • Students (but these could also be users)

External HE

  • General public
  • Research users (e.g. charities, government, industry, SMEs)
  • Funders
  • Publishers
  • Collaborators

Some of the key motivations for OA are captured below:

  • Increasing citations
  • Developing research collaborations
  • Increasing research income
  • Policy compliance
  • Preservation and archiving
  • Demonstrating impact
  • Making researchers aware of the costs of publishing
  • Giving access to research

 

Following this, groups were then asked to position the stakeholders on a continuum from Green to Gold OA. This was a deliberately blunt tool, as often a particular stakeholders’ position with respect to Green/Gold differs depending on the context, but it was nevertheless effective in starting a conversation about the different needs and drivers of the various people involved.

This exercise prompted some interesting discussions, such as whether “researchers” could count as a single stakeholder or whether we need to distinguish between different research disciplines and career stages with regards to OA. One of the groups which I took part in felt we couldn’t simply lump them together, for example because some STEM disciplines may feel more comfortable and familiar with a Green route to OA, while senior researchers may want funding for Gold to ensure the highest possible impact from their work.

A couple of groups distinguished between Researchers-as-producers/authors and Researchers-as-readers, and felt that the former group would sit more towards the Green end of the spectrum and the latter at the Gold end.

In the concluding feedback session there was a diverse range of opinions, including the view that it’s not possible to strike a balance between all of the stakeholders involved! Here are a few thoughts from participants grouped by area to give a flavour of the discussion:

General

  • The public don’t really care whether it’s green or gold – they just want access!
  • Where different stakeholders sit on the Green/Gold spectrum is difficult to tease out and depends on motivation.
  • Within group differences outweigh between group differences
  • Within some groups there are different hats, eg costing, research managers.

Publishers

  • Two groups: funders and publishers aren’t getting involved in the messy business of implementation
  • The only person who benefits from Gold in the long run is the publisher.
  • Ideological discussions: should we be asking publishers to give a transparent breakdown of Gold costs?

Academics

  • Discipline specific differences: In one institution it was felt that Law just want to publish – and don’t care about OA, but at Northumbria the School of Law is setting up OA journals.
  • Green/Gold OA doesn’t matter to (some) academics – they’re interested in status of journal

Funders

  • Funders: Wellcome wanted to be Gold so provided a wider framework.
  • Wellcome researchers just rely on Wellcome to publish and perhaps don’t deposit?

We’d like to thank everyone who came along and participated in the session. The debate was really positive and fruitful and we’ll be using the outcomes from this workshop to feed into a survey and our first project workshops, to be taking place in October. As always, we’ll keep the blog updated so if you’re interested in following the progress of the project please either bookmark this page or subscribe to the blog.”

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UK Government Embraces Gold Open Access

More news on open access scholarly publishing this month, following last month’s publication of the Finch report. The UK government has now made a formal response which largely accepts the Finch proposals, and in particular embraces the move to “gold” open access, which means that the author pays the costs of publication upfront, rather than libraries subscribing in bulk to journals.

BIS Response to Finch

The essence of today’s announcement is that all UK publicly funded research should be made openly accessible to anyone to read for free by 2014. In particular, it means that research should be published in OA journals which charge a fee to the author – in reality the author’s institution – for making the article freely available. This fee is known as an Article Processing Charge or APC. The costs of this move to gold OA will be borne by the existing science budget, which will not be increased to cover transitional costs to the new publishing arrangement.

Interviewed in the Guardian yesterday, universities and science minister David Willetts echoes the Finch report in claiming costs will amount to 1% of the current science budget:

“There is a genuine value in academic publishing which has to be reflected and we think that is the case for gold open access, which includes APCs,” Willetts told the Guardian. “There is a transitional cost to go through, but it’s overall of benefit to our research community and there’s general acceptance it’s the right thing to do.

“We accept that some of this cost will fall on the ring-fenced science budget, which is £4.6bn. In Finch’s highest estimation that will be 1% of the science budget going to pay for gold open access, at least before we get to a new steady state, when we hope competition will bring down author charges and universities will make savings as they don’t have to pay so much in journal subscriptions,” he added.

“The real economic impact is we are throwing open, to academics, researchers, businesses and lay people, all the high quality research that is publicly funded. I think there’s a massive net economic benefit here way beyond any £50m from the science budget,” Willetts said.

However, there is a concern that in the transitional period there will be additional costs for universities: libraries will still need to subscribe to many traditional journals as not all countries and publishers have embraced this move to open access. These costs will need to be met on top of the APCs to be levied on publicly funded research published in OA journals.

Meanwhile so-called “green” open access, where authors self-deposit a version of their published work in institutional or subject-specific repositories, barely receives a mention in the formal BIS response. The Guardian reports that this is an alternative “favoured by many academics” and ends with longstanding OA advocate Prof. Stevan Harnad, of Southampton University, who sees the government response as a missed opportunity to move to a cost-free green OA model and cut out the publishers altogether.

RCUK block grants for OA

Alongside the BIS announcement, Research Councils UK also released a response to the Finch report yesterday in the form of a new Open Access policy:

The new policy, which will apply to all qualifying publications being submitted for publication from 1 April 2013, states that peer reviewed research papers which result from research that is wholly or partially funded by the Research Councils:

  • must be published in journals which are compliant with Research Council policy on Open Access, and;
  • must include details of the funding that supported the research, and a statement on how the underlying research materials such as data, samples or models can be accessed.

Criteria which journals must fulfill to be compliant with the Research Councils’ Open Access policy are detailed within the policy, but include offering a “pay to publish” option or allowing deposit in a subject or institutional repository after a mandated maximum embargo period.

RCUK says it will provide a “block grant” to institutions to cover the costs of APCs arising from its funded work. Details on what this might be and how it will work are still to be discussed with organisations, but one possibility is that it will be linked to overall amount of grant funding received from research councils.

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