Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Breakout Group C: ‘Unearthing gold: hard labour for publishers and universities?’

Presenter: Paul Harwood (Jisc Collections)

Blogger: David Walters (King’s College London)

Paul gave us an update on a JISC collections project he has been working on for the past year. The project was developed in the wake of the ‘Finch report’ (2012) and the subsequent introduction of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) policy (2013). The aim of the project was to provide a ‘quick and dirty’ insight as to what has been happening and the perceptions of what has been happening.

Activities around the project involved:
A questionnaire to RLUK members in January 2014
Face-to-face interviews with 7 publishers in March 2014
Telephone interviews with representatives from 4 European countries

RCUK is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. Each year the Research Councils invest around £3 billion in research covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities

Paul reflected on the statement presented to him by numerous RCUK representatives during the project:

“This is a journey not an event”

Paul also commented on the mission statement of the RCUK open access policy and noted that it was last updated in May last year. Further changes may be seen as we move further into the transition to open access publishing and the impact of the RCUK policy is realised more widely.


Questionnaire to RLUK members

Paul explained that the project targeted RLUK as subjects because they are an excellent collection of the ‘great and the good’ research led institutions in the UK. There are a greater number of institutions that are members of RLUK and a greater number of universities that are eligible for RCUK funding, which is why this group was chosen as a sample over the Russell group. There are currently 34 members (and growing). 28 members are in receipt of RCUK funding.

71% of eligible institutions responded to the questionnaire. There were some interesting findings:

“Around a 1/3rd of respondents had a mandate for authors to deposit papers into the institutional repository.“

Paul noted there was some confusion around the term mandate vs policy. He commented that this cuts to the ‘heart of the argument’ on open access. Should authors be forced into disseminating their research openly? Will institutions meet resistance from researchers as a result?

“Around a 1/5rd of respondents had an institutional fund for authors prior to the new RCUK policy. Now around 2/3rds do“

Research funders also appear to be advocating more stick and less carrot. The vast majority of institutions did not have a mandate before RCUK policy came into effect but have since introduced a central fund to support authors meet the conditions of their grant.

The project found the BIS fund is likely to have had a big impact on this trend. Significant percentages have spent this money on prepayment accounts for the payment of future APCs, staff resources and retrospective gold. The highest number of agreements was 16.

Paul noted that another significant finding is that the library is leading this initiative in almost every case.

There is an average of 117 RCUK funded articles published per institution from April 2013. They found a large range of total funds spent between institutions, ranging from 30k to 500k. Many institutions have stated that if the money runs out, they intend to meet any remaining costs themselves.

Cambridge stood out as an institution as they have published their collected data on figshare. There is hope that other institutions will follow suit.

Overwhelmingly, institutions want to be proactive and to understand the workflows involved, which is why most are handling payments themselves. Around 1/3 are making use of the JISC APC and OAK scheme and approximately 2/3 are using their own system.

The most time and effort around the workflows has been going into checking that requirements have been met. This could involve checking all articles for acknowledgments, for example.

When approving payments, most institutions will not pay a gold APC charge if the publication does not meet the RCUK terms and conditions - an incorrect creative commons license, for example.

The project found a lot of frustration around the communication of RCUK to it’s authors. The majority of institutions positively support RCUK policy. However, many are concerned about spiraling costs and others concerned about the overall strategy by promoting Gold over Green. In advice to authors, more than ¾ of those surveyed are expressing institutional preference for achieving the RCUK objectives through the green compliance option over the gold.


Face-to-face interviews with 7 publishers

“A journey or an event”

Paul discussed some emerging themes with different publishers. During the project they spoke to both large and small publishers for a range of perspectives.

On being asked how open access has been received in their respective publishing houses’ the view expressed a feeling that a sufficiently big transformation has occurred to warrant major change. It's now widely accepted that open access is not going away and they are adapting their models to meet this challenge
There are major problems with many publishers in tracking funder information. For many it is information that is simply not held. The new RCUK policy has prompted a change in the way they store and manage this information. Many of the big publishers now incorporate funders and their associated requirements into their submission system. So far this is just not viable for some of the smaller publishers. All groups are looking for the development of industry standards surrounding the issue in order to meet this requirement. Integration with FundRef is one such solution they are working on.

This work is partly being informed by RIN (Research Information Network), who have produced new report detailing the kind monitoring that needs to take place in the transition to open access.

Many publishers are working to alleviate allegations of double dipping by changing their business models to offset these costs.

So far they have found a high administrative overhead with regard to this work.


Other representatives

Austria now closely mirrors the UK in terms of a mandated open access policy.

In Austria, funders are entering into agreements with publishers on behalf of their authors. The Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Austrian Academic Consortium (Kooperation E-Medien Österreich), the Austrian Central Library for Physics at the University of Vienna and IOP Publishing (IOP) have announced a new pilot project that will provide advance funding for Austrian researchers to publish on a hybrid open access basis in IOP’s subscription journals and which will offset that funding against subscription and licence fees paid by the Austrian Academic Consortium for access to IOP’s journals.

Other countries want to see more government support in order to make steady progress in the transition to open access. In the words of some, they would like their own David Willets!

There is a perception that most publishers do not want to see open access fully realised. Generally there is a preference among funders for green route. However, if it appears that this is not meeting expectations, they are ready to make a case for gold funded OA.

In the Netherlands, they sense there is a growing open access movement building in the same way as the UK. However, although they are committed to this, they are not prepared to put additional funds aside in the same way. There is a perception that publishers took over the finch report and have used it to generate more revenue.

There is a feeling that green isn't working and that research evaluation needs serious review.
In Germany there is a real sense that their Government is not engaged with the issue of open access, despite repeated appeals by researchers who want it. They suggest that the RCUK policy is flawed and they shouldn't put more money in the system. Supporting two systems is seen as unsustainable.

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