Going for gold: all or nothing on open access?

This week is Global Open Access week and is now in its eighth year. Here at the UWE Graduate School we have run a number of events in that past 3 years on the topic of open access publishing. In October 2012 we explored the topic of Open Access by introducing what was happening in terms of the policy direction of the main UK funders of research.

I think that most scholars agree that open access, in an ideal world should be the default, that the end product should be freely available to anyone that wants to access it.

Despite this agreement, there is still a lot of debate and misinformation about the direction of scholarly publishing. I think some context is required…


If you would like a background to open access publishing, the Piled Higher and Deeper comic strip have a good overview video that explains why there has been a shift in scholarly publishing.

Another excellent summary was written by Phil Ward on his blog, Research Fundermentals, in a post entitled “an introduction to open access”.

Perhaps a simplistic (some may argue hyperbolic) illustration of the current state of affairs was set out by Dr Michael P Taylor writing in The Guardian newspaper, “The parable of the farmers and the Teleporting Duplicator”. It is easy to see the logic but perhaps also easy to forget that this is much more easily applied to scientific disciplines than to the rest of the academy.

UK Policy Landscape

In the UK there have been a lot of policy changes that impact on Open Access. The debates lie in how to make research outputs more accessible to everyone without damaging the sustainability of a peer reviewed system and not derailing researchers ability to publish. This was the task set by the UK Government that Dame Janet Finch undertook and the outcomes and recommendations were released in mid 2012.

There was a good piece on a BBC Radio 3 programme, “Night Waves” featuring David Willetts & Dame Janet Finch that aired on 2nd October 2012 summarises the debate well. Here’s the link to that programme:- the segment on open access begins at about 6 min 35 seconds in from the start.

The UK Research Councils (and the Government in general) have accepted these recommendations and have made quite a bold policy decision about how the outputs from research that is funded by the Research Councils should be published

The extra funding that David Willetts talks about to assist the transition has just been announced although this funding will be directed toward those who publish the most outputs from Research Council funded projects.

Not everyone is happy with the “Gold OA” preference, some see it as a victory for the publishers to have their cake and eat it whilst others have different concerns, e.g. how will universities ensure that there is funding available to researchers to facilitate the publishing of articles without prejudice? The transition to open access necessitates a period whereby two models (subscription and open access) will be running alongside each other adding to the financial burden. How do we ensure that in the rush to change things we don’t undermine researchers who produce the outputs?

More recently, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have made it clear that research outputs submitted into the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) will have to be open access from April 2016.

At UWE, Bristol

Here are some of the presentations/documents we’ve used with Early Career Researchers to introduce Open Access

Jenni Crossley (UWE Research & Knowledge Exchange Librarian) along with Alex Clarke (UWE Research Repository Manager) slides.

In 2013, the founder and editor-in-chief of Social Sciences Directory, Dan Scott, presented his view on Open Access in scholarly publishing. His presentation can be found below:


I am beginning to worry that there aren’t enough researchers who have grasped the seismic shift that is unfolding, moreso that experienced academics have yet to understand the ramifications for the next generation of researchers who will be operating in a different climate in terms of disseminating their findings. My experience is that researchers, especially those who are early on in their career, are risk averse when it comes to publishing open access. The mood appears to be to just stick to tried and tested methods from yesteryear – an approach that seems to be readily endorsed by a significant minority of supervisors/Principal Investigators.

We are in a time of change with respect to scholarly publishing, there is no doubt about that. The shift is seismic and researchers need to be ready to adapt to this new environment.

What do you think?

3 thoughts on “Going for gold: all or nothing on open access?

  1. Pingback: Submitting your thesis electronically | The Digitally Connected Researcher

  2. Pingback: Open Access, or: The internet is not going away #openaccess – The Digital Doctorate

  3. Pingback: Open Access, or: The internet is not going away #openaccess |

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