The Publishers Association (PA) is the leading trade organisation serving book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK. Join The Publishers Association today and start benefiting.

Finch, Willetts, RCUK, Green OA, and embargoes

Print

There appears to be considerable confusion around what Janet Finch said in her Report, what David Willetts endorsed in his Letter, and what the latest RCUK Policy actually proposes in relation to a number of issues. After consultation with our membership, this paper sets out to clarify what we perceive the publishers’ position to be on these issues.

1. ‘Green’ open access and associated embargoes

Our understanding of the RCUK Policy is as set out in the decision tree on page 5 at the end of this paper, based on the following interpretation of the text:

The Finch Report makes 40 references to embargoes, but the key reference is this:

# 9.10 and 9.11, p.106: “Where appropriate levels of dedicated funding are provided to meet the costs of open access publishing, it is reasonable to expect that researchers should adopt open access as the default mode of publishing their findings. In that case, it may be reasonable for funders to require that embargo periods are shorter than twelve months. .....Where dedicated funding is not provided to support open access publications, and therefore researchers are unable to use this route, we believe that it would be unreasonable to require that embargo periods are shorter than twelve months.”

This view is endorsed by the Willetts Letter  of 16th July:

“The Government has listened carefully to what publishers, learned societies and the Finch Group collectively have had to say on this issue. We prefer the ‘gold’ over the ‘green’ model, especially where the research is taxpayer funded so the Government agrees with the sentiment expressed in the Finch Report. Embargo periods allowed by funding bodies for publishers should be short where publishers have chosen not to take up the preferred option of their receiving an Article Processing Charge (which provides payment in full for immediate publication by the ‘gold OA’ route). Where APC funds are not available to the publisher or learned society, for the publication of publicly-funded research, then publishers could reasonably insist on a longer more equitable embargo period. This could be up to 12 months for science, technology and engineering publications and longer for publications in those disciplines which require more time to secure payback. Even so, publications with embargo periods longer than two years may find it difficult to argue that they are also serving the public interest.”

The RCUK Open Access Policy released to coincide with the Willetts letter reads as follows:

“# 3(1): 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 (see section 4).

#4: The Research Councils will recognise a journal as being compliant with their policy on Open Access if:

1. The journal provides via its own website immediate and unrestricted access to the publisher’s final version of the paper (the Version of Record), and allows immediate deposit of the Version of Record in other repositories without restriction on re-use. This may involve payment of an ‘Article Processing Charge’ (APC) to the publisher. The CC-BY license should be used in this case. Or

2. Where a publisher does not offer option 1 above (my emphasis), the journal must allow deposit of Accepted Manuscripts that include all changes resulting from peer review (but not necessarily incorporating the publisher’s formatting) in other repositories, without restrictions on non-commercial re-use and within a defined period. In this option no ‘Article Processing Charge’ will be payable to the publisher. Research Councils will accept a delay of no more than six months between on-line publication and a research paper becoming Open Access, except in the case of research papers arising from research funded by the AHRC and the ESRC where the maximum embargo period is 12 months.”

The Guidance associated with the Policy explains when the six month embargo will apply:

#3.2 When should a paper become Open Access?

“Ideally, a research paper should become Open Access as soon as it is published on-line. However, the Research Councils recognise that embargo periods are currently used by some journals with business models which depend on generating revenue through subscriptions. Therefore, where a publisher does not offer a ‘pay-to-publish’ option (my emphasis) the Research Councils will accept a delay between on-line publication and a paper becoming Open Access of no more than six months, except in the case of research papers arising from research funded by the AHRC and the ESRC.”

The funding for APCs is to be derived through a new system of block grants:

“#5:  RCUK have in the past provided support for APCs through both direct and indirect costs as part of grant funding. Going forward, from 1 April 2013 and until further notice, RCUK will solely pay for APCs through block grants to UK Higher Education Institutions, approved independent research organisations and Research Council Institutes.”

So our perception is that the RCUK Policy aligns with the recommendations in the Finch Report in terms of embargo periods. RCUK has made it clear that it will be providing dedicated funding for APCs in the form of block grants. The requirement on funded researchers to make their articles available via a repository under an embargo of no more than six months would apply only (my emphasis) if the publisher of the journal were not in a position to accept an APC.  In other words, RCUK is expecting journals currently operating under a subscription model to either (a) move to a model fully funded by APCs, or (b) offer an additional option of immediate open access in return for an APC, or (c) support a maximum of a 6/12 month embargo period.

2. Re-use

The text of the RCUK Policy reads as follows:

#2. Definition of Open Access.  The Research Councils define Open Access to mean unrestricted, on-line access to peer reviewed and published scholarly research papers. Specifically a user must be able to do the following free of any publisher-imposed access charge:

1. Read published research papers in an electronic format.

2. Search for and re-use (including download) the content of published research papers both manually and using automated tools (such as those for text and data mining) provided that any such re-use is subject to proper attribution.

Open Access therefore allows unrestricted use of manual and automated text and data mining tools, as well as unrestricted re-use of content with proper attribution – as defined by the Creative Commons CC-BY license.  [Footnote] ‘CC-BY’ refers to the Creative Commons ‘Attribution’ licence, which lets others modify, build upon and/or distribute the licensed work (including for commercial purposes) as long as the original author is credited.  

It is apparent to us however that some publishers and certain societies in some disciplines are uncomfortable with this blanket requirement for CC-BY (and thus commercial re-use) by RCUK, and existing practices vary considerably. While making 40 references to re-use and recommending clearly that “open access publications should be accompanied by policies to
minimise restrictions on the rights of use and re-use”, Finch appears to stop short of recommending commercial re-use:

#3 Our recommendations, paragraph (iii), p.7:  support for open access publication should be accompanied by 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;

A common position between all publishers over this issue is probably not achievable, and indeed the relationship between the licence applied and the APC paid is likely to become a competition issue between publishers, although we recognise that unrestricted CC-BY is a firm requirement of the RCUK (and the Wellcome Trust) Policy where there is payment of an APC.

When it comes to ‘Green’ copies of Accepted Manuscripts when no APC has been paid however, most publishers seem to us to be reluctant to grant the re-use implied by the RCUK Policy:

#4.2: Where a publisher does not offer option 1 above, the journal must allow deposit of Accepted Manuscripts that include all changes resulting from peer review (but not necessarily incorporating the publisher’s formatting) in other repositories, without restrictions on non-commercial re-use (my emphasis) and within a defined period. In this option no ‘Article Processing Charge’ will be payable to the publisher.

Publishers will feel justified in adopting this position, partly because the Finch report recommended caution to avoid undue risk to journals that are not funded by APCs:

#3. Our recommendations, paragraph (x), p.8:  funders’ limitations on the length of embargo periods, and on any other restrictions on access to content not published on
open access terms, should be considered carefully, to avoid undue risk to valuable journals that are not funded in the main by APCs. Rules should be kept under review in the light of the available evidence as to their likely impact on such journals.

but also because they do not regard Green deposit of Accepted Manuscripts as ‘publication’ of the Version of Record. We perceive references to ‘open access publication’ in Finch as meaning formal publication in open access or hybrid journals in return for an APC, and not to mean informal deposit of the author’s Accepted Manuscript in a repository. So the clear recommendations in the Finch report regarding re-use (especially #3 (iii) quoted above and #7.69 reproduced below) we regard as applying to articles published as the Version of Record for which an APC has been paid, but not to Accepted Manuscripts made available through Green deposit.

Use and re-use rights #7.69: “We noted earlier that access is not just about the ability to read a publication, but about what users can do with the content: to analyse and manipulate it; to shift it from one format to another; to re-use and re-purpose it in many different ways to facilitate the creation of new knowledge. Use and re-use rights depend to a significant extent on the formats in which content is made available: the range of potential uses of a PDF file, for example, tend to be more limited than for content that is madeavailable in HTML or XML. Word-processed text files in repositories may thus be much less ‘useful’ to users than more advanced formats. The key for researchers and many other users is that published content should be accessible in formats that are as easy to manipulate as possible; and that any restrictions on what they can do with the content should be minimal, if they exist at all. Researchers want the maximum freedom to use the latest tools and services to make the best use of the information to which they have access.


3. Verions of Record

The RCUK Policy implies the use of the Version of Record without restriction in ‘other’ repositories:

#4. Compliance of Journals ...... The Research Councils will recognise a journal as being compliant with their policy on Open Access if:

1.The journal provides via its own website immediate and unrestricted access to the publisher’s final version of the paper (the Version of Record), and allows immediate deposit of the Version of Record in other repositories without restriction on re-use.

For consistency and continuity, publishers will want to maintain stewardship of the definitive Version of Record of journal articles. Articles labelled as Versions of Record in any repository other than the publisher’s site must refer back to the publisher-maintained Version of Record on the publisher’s site via the CrossMark device managed by CrossRef. Publishers will want to take up this issue with RCUK to ensure clarity in their Guidance to researchers.

Graham Taylor

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
30 July 2012

icon Decision tree for policy on access to UK publicly funded research outputs

alt