(Very) Good news from the UK - Recommended Revisions to Open Access Policy

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September 09, 2013
Some very good news out of the UK early this morning (UK time!) - The UK House of Commons' Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee has just released a new report, "Open Access: Achieving a Functional Market," recommending significant revisions to the Open Access Policy direction set out in response to last year's controversial "Finch Report," as well as in the revised Research Council's UK (RCUK) Open Access Policy. 
Most strikingly, both the Finch Report and RCUK revisions placed a significant premium on using paid publication in Open Access journals (termed "Gold OA") as the primary compliance mechanism, while giving the so-called "Green OA route" - the deposition of articles in Open Digital Repositories - short shrift. 
The new BIS Committee report is the culmination of an inquiry started in January, when the Committee undertook a significant public consultation across broad groups of stakeholders to ensure that the Open Access Policies adopted in the UK effectively serve their intended purpose. 
The results of this inquiry are striking, and summed up nicely by the headline in the Press Release Accompanying the report:

"Government mistaken in focusing on Gold as route to full open access, says Committee."

The report concludes that while the UK Government's commitment to increasing access to the results of publicly-funded research is laudable, it's current approach is significantly flawed. The report specifically notes that: 
"While Gold Open Access is a desirable ultimate goal, focusing on it during the transition to a fully Open Access world is a mistake," and calls on the Government and the RCUK to give "due regard to the evidence of the vital role that Green Open Access and repositories have to play as the UK moves forward."
The new BIS report outlines a series of welcome recommendations, including new guidance on article processing charges (APC's) and embargo periods. Among the key recommendations:  
* The RCUK should reinstate and strengthen the immediate deposit mandate in its original policy and improve the monitoring and enforcement of mandated deposit;
* The Government and RCUK should revise their policies to place an upper limit of 6 month embargoes on STEM subject research and up to 12 month embargoes for HASS subject research;
* The Government should mitigate against the impact on universities of paying Article Processing Charges out of their own reserves; and
* If a preference for Gold is maintained, the Government and RCUK should amend their policies so that APCs are only paid to publishers of pure Gold rather than hybrid journals to eliminate the risk of double-dipping.
The report also contains transcripts of testimony from stakeholders (including SPARC Europe's Alma Swan) and provides an important, deeper window into the perspective of the business community - a primary concern for the BIS Committee. View the full report.
Please share widely with your campus Open Access advocates, Administrators and any others who are interested in Open Access; this report provides important clarity on some very timely - and thorny -  issues in Open Access policy development.