02 July 2012
The eagerly awaited Finch Report was published on 18th June. The Finch Committee, headed up by Dame Janet Finch, a sociologist at the University of Manchester, was set up last year by UK Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts, and tasked with establishing how access to research could be expanded.
After due deliberation, the Committee concluded that all publicly funded research should be made freely available on an Open Access (OA) basis, and that the traditional journal model — which currently sees most research locked behind a subscription paywall — should be gradually discontinued.
The Finch Report has been welcomed by
publishers and their trade associations (e.g. here, here and here), and
by research funders (e.g. here and here).
However, it has been received with a mixture of frustration, disbelief, and anger by some UK research universities, and by many OA advocates (e.g. here, here and here).
RP: The Finch Report recommends that all publicly funded research be made freely available on an Open Access basis, and that the traditional subscription model be phased out. The Publishers Association has welcomed the Report, describing it as a “’balanced package’ of recommendations for extending access to research outputs within the UK”.
By contrast, many in the OA movement have greeted the Report with dismay. Stevan Harnad, for instance, has described it as a product of “strong and palpable influence from the publishing lobby”, and a “fiasco”. Meanwhile, David Price, Vice-Provost (Research) at UCL, commented to me that, “The result of the Finch recommendations would be to cripple university systems with extra expense”. He added, “Finch is certainly a cure to the problem of access, but is it not a cure which is actually worse than the disease?”
What is it that critics of the Report like this are not seeing that publishers do see?
GT: In fact the report recommends that “a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research, especially when it is publicly funded”. In proposing that the UK “should embrace the transition to open access”, the report recognises that “the process itself will be complicated” and that “no single channel can on its own maximise research publications for the greatest number of people”.
It was not us who described the report as a ‘balanced package’, but Finch herself: “Our recommendations are presented as a balanced package, so it is critical that they are implemented in a balanced and sustainable way, with continuing close contact and dialogue between representatives in the key groups..” Most of the reaction to Finch that I have seen has been supportive, and we wait to hear what David Willetts will say to Janet Finch in reply.
The PA was instrumental in proposing to Willetts in March last year that a cross-sector representative stakeholder group might look at ways of extending access to GLOBAL research publications for the benefit of UK researchers, so Finch was always about more than OA for UK research.
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