We have spoken about open access to many staff across all areas of the university and reactions are varied. One thing is clear – open access is seen as a disruptive force, challenging the status quo and requiring action from researchers who already have many demands upon their time. These are some of the key issues raised by researchers:
- Time & effort: HEFCE make it very clear that the policy for the next REF has been designed to change researcher behaviour, to force them to take action themselves, to take responsibility for ensuring that their work is free to read. For university staff who may also be busy teaching or tasked with improving impact or citations, it’s yet another thing to do. Yet some will argue the benefits make it worth the effort – we looked at the “OA Advantage” on Day 2.
- What about the publishers? The current business model for academic publishing has led to big profits for the top publishers, some of whom (Elsevier) have attracted a great deal of criticism. At the other end of the spectrum, authors fear for small-scale “learned society” journals who may not be able to to survive the move to open access. Humanities & Social Sciences are particularly concerned about this area. See a further post here on the issues.
- Risk: despite the best efforts of tools like Sherpa Romeo, copyright policies are far from clear and many researchers are unsure of what they are permitted or not permitted to do. There has also been a widespread flouting of copyright in the academic community by posting publisher versions on sites such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate or using the #icanhazpdf hashtag on Twitter. All of this seems to go on with impunity, apart from an occasional flurry of takedown notices. The situation breeds uncertainty and confusion. We will look at “OA & the Law” on Day 5.
- The university is now faced with being asked to report on open access compliance and risks its REF-reputation on authors not taking action to meet the new HEFCE policy. The crucial “acceptance for publication” date is usually only known to the researcher and the publisher – how can a university track this activity and report upon it? The answer currently relies on the “Time & effort” of researchers to engage with institutional policies and systems.
- What about books / book chapters / novels… The current policies are focussed on journal articles and conference proceedings but it’s also clear that HEFCE in particular have ALL research outputs in their sights for being open access in the future. Is there an implication that other forms of publication will be sidelined or have less impact if they aren’t open access? We will look at books on Day 4.
- The UK will get left behind…it is easy to think that the UK is alone in this concerted push to make research outputs open access but in fact open access is a global movement (as shown by Open Access week). You may wish to read about OA in the USA or look at progress across Europe on the SPARC website.
Is there anything in particular troubling you about making your work open access? We will be out and about across campus during Open Access week if you want to come and discuss it with us. Or leave a comment below…
Tomorrow Day 4: what about Open Access Books?