The Wellcome Trust strengthened their open access policy last year and now withhold part of the grant available to authors until they comply with the new approach.
This is because open access increases the impact of the biomedical and health research that Wellcome funds, which can only be a good thing. From the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) onwards, the same link between open access and research funding will be cemented throughout UK higher education, for pretty much the same reason.
Research funders across the world now broadly agree that they will get the most value from their investments by stipulating that the outputs from research are openly available for others to use - both within universities and beyond. There are different emphases: on straightforward access to publications; on re-use rights; on the importance of competition and lower prices for journals; on embargo lengths where no payment is made to the journal. However the direction is clear, this change is now irrevocable.
Does this change benefit universities?
It might, under certain conditions. Some universities fear that both the sheer cost and the administrative pain of open access journals will outweigh any advantages. It is certainly true that universities (and countries) with many research publications will pay more than those with fewer. And probably more than they do now. That is a funding question for which there needs to be a resolution.
However, the REF policy is potentially a simpler and bigger win for universities. If they make the relatively small changes needed to their systems and exploit third party services that are becoming available then universities will have a comprehensive record of their research output together with a means of monitoring its use and impact.
While the REF policy itself does not require that research papers are available through an institutional repository, it does note that Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is working with Jisc to ensure that papers can easily be made available in that way. The implication is that universities taking up the Jisc work will be in a good position to manage their submission to the next REF.
So what is that Jisc work?
- Repository improvements: Jisc will support repository managers in making improvements to their systems, including software and direct technical assistance
- Open access implementation community: Jisc will ensure that those in universities who are implementing open access policies have workshops, briefing materials, case studies and networking opportunities
- Metadata agreement: Jisc is working hard with both HEFCE and the Research Councils, and university representatives to promote simple and clear guidance from funders on the information and formats they will require
- Shared services: where there is a clear need, Jisc will provide services such as Sherpa/FACT (compliance guidance) and IRUS-UK (usage statistics). Where there might be an emerging need, such as in monitoring compliance, we will work with libraries, research managers and others to clarify that need
- Policy alignment: Jisc is a partner in the European PASTEUR4OA project which will work toward some alignment between open access policies across Europe, simplifying the policy landscape and so reducing its burden
- Negotiations: Jisc will continue to negotiate with publishers and others on your behalf, to ensure open access costs are manageable
- Inform: Jisc has been working on universities’ behalf in informing the debates on copyright reform. This culminated last week in proposed legislation on research; libraries and archives and data and text mining for non-commercial research. This is likely to increase the value of research papers available through repositories
Over the next decade, there will be a wholesale shift to open access in one form or another. This will give universities new roles and opportunities both before and after papers are published. And Jisc will be there for universities to help them exploit these opportunities and minimise the costs.