Sunday 15 September 2013

Negotiating with governments: in search of pragmatic public access policy

Fred Dylla
Fred Dylla from the American Institute of Physics introduced the final session on day 2 of the ALPSP International ConferenceNegotiating with governments. It provided an invaluable overview of policy around Europe and in the US.

Steven Hall, Managing Director of IOP Publishing, outlined the recent history of open access policy in the UK. Hall continues to be involved in the Finch group and was on the original committee, so has unrivalled insight into the process. The recommendations from Finch were endorsed by publishers, BIS and RCUK were included in the quid pro quo of 12 months embargo in order to make gold open access viable. There has since been criticism of RCUK by research institutions and the House of Lords over their implementation.

Meanwhile, implementation by HEFCE is running apace. Their public consultation on open access policy in relation to submissions post-2014 REF closes on 30 October 2013. Key proposals include outputs (journal articles and conference proceedings) should be accessible through a UK higher education institution repository, immediately upon either acceptance on publication, though the repository may provide access in a way that respects agreed embargo periods.

With the implementation by universities, policies are still evolving and guidance to authors is changing. There is no consistent policy across Russell Group universities. The majority explicitly favour green over gold, e.g. Bristol, Cambridge, Imperial, Oxford. Most of these are allowing 12 or 24 month embargoes, but some are stipulating green with a 6 or 12 month embargo. Some institutions are neutral, in different degrees, between gold and green, leaving the choice to authors, e.g. Exeter, UCL. The latter is also supplementing the RCUK block grant with additional funding. A very small minority are favouring gold over green e.g. Reading.

Generally, there is a pragmatic and practical approach from universities that publishers can work with. But when you consider why universities are going for green, it is primarily because of concerns over cost. There is growing demand for offsetting of APC costs against subscription and licence fees and a lack of data on numbers of RCUK-funded articles to inform budgeting. Policies and processes are still in development including how block grants should be allocated to researchers, processes for managing payments and compliance monitoring, payment of publication charges for collaborative publications.

SHERPA/FACT is a funder and author compliance tool from University of Nottingham's SHERPA service. It is funded by RCUK and Wellcome with links to SHERPA RoMEO for information on embargo policies. Its aim is to be a one-stop-shop for researchers wishing to find out about funding and open access policies.

What have we learned so far? Universities and researchers are nervous about this. We need close consultation and cooperation with all stakeholders - this is critical. Clear, consistent, unambiguous and actionable guidance for researchers is required from funders, universities and publishers. More work is required on forms of licence for gold and green. Policy needs to reflect the journey, not the destination.

Eric Merkel-Sobotta from Springer Science+Business Media reflected on whether Brussels think publishers add value? Don't forget that the EU is also a research funder. Horizon 2020 begins in 2014 and provides €70 billion over 6 years. They have implemented it primarily for economic growth, to build better and more efficient science that builds on previous results and avoids duplication and to improve transparency (involving citizens/society). Horizon 2020 makes open accesss the general principle for research funded by the EU (mixed green and gold open access). Gold APCs are eligible for reimbursement and the green embargo is for 6 months. 

Merkel-Sobata believes the UK has the most far reaching policy, that used a constructive process, with probably the best results for all stakeholders. In Germany, there was good progress during an 18 month dialogue on open access, but after grand-standing by both sides, it collapsed. Spain encourages open access repositories for research, however there is a lot of lobbying going on. In France, there is nothing concrete so far, but a government working group is discussing the options.

There will be more news to come from the EU. Currently, the three responsible Commissioners can't agree on potential objectives around Copyright reform. There are complex text and data mining working groups, but not all stakeholders are involved and the key work group for publishers may be disbanded, which could disrupt the process further. There is a sense that other industries and interest groups have far greater lobbying power in Brussels. The scholarly publishing community needs to raise its profile and influence in Europe and they must continue to engage with all stakeholders constructively.

Fred Dylla closed the session with an overview of US open access policy. In 2009 US House sponsored Scholarly Publishing Roundtable. March 2012 saw the publication of the OSTP report Interagency Public Access Coordination. The FundRef pilot program was announced by CrossRef in May of the same year and in June the Finch report was published in the UK. In February of this year the OSTP Memo was released - a short, but very nuanced report - increasing access to the results of federally funded research. It suggested 12 months as a guideline with a get-out clause that agencies can exercise flexibility to address challenges and public interests. It also stated the benefit and value of a successful publishing industry.

Overall, agency plans must provide for free public access to a full-text version of publications resulting from publicly funded research (after an embargo), contain a strategy for leveraging existing resources, fostering public-private partnerships, provide for archiving and long-term stewardship and identify resources within existing agency budgets for implementation.

Dylla outlined current projects and initiatives. PubMedCentral (PMC) database has for a decade been the public repository for articles resulting from NIH sponsored research. NIH will expand PMC to encompass the articles from research paid for by other federal agencies. This requires an investment of federal funds to expand PMC. Many publishers object to how PMC is operated because it duplicates functions of publishers.

The recently launched CHORUS Project's key objectives include:
  • public access (publishers provide and host, using FundRef for front-end identification and CrossRef linking to the version of record or author's accepted manuscript)
  • compliance: publishers ensure using FundRef, agencies, authors and research institutions can easily confirm
  • archival preservation: multi-level solution, publishers archives with trusted third party back-ups (Portico, CLOCKSS)
  • bibliographic search and discovery - FundRef, commercial search engines, library tools, and API support for agency-specific portals
  • to be low cost or no cost for agency participation except for staff time on the CHORUS committees.
The American Association of Universities,  Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and Association of Research Libraries has developed an offer called SHARE. There are 3 things in common with CHORUS. Both agree they need persistent identifiers, the development of metrics and preservation.

What happens next? CHORUS is about to launch a pilot and there is hope that agencies will take it up. Some agencies will partner with PMC, but will need funds. All plans have to be reviewed and approved by OSTP/OMB and returned to agencies for full development and implementation in 2014-15. 

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