In the UK, much of Europe and the US, scholarly communities are making good progress on the road to open access (OA) – long and winding as it is.
The theme for this year’s open access week, ‘open for collaboration’, reflects this progress, taking the opportunity to look beyond policy and highlight the reason why we all set out in the first place – greater openness supports collaboration across disciplinary, institutional, national and international boundaries, and makes research better.
Blazing the OA trail
It’s fair to say that UK universities and funders have been among the front-runners in the European OA movement. Our research institutions and funders have been quick off the mark in policy development and the UK is responsible for around 15% of the 700 plus OA policies worldwide that have been recorded by the Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies (ROARMAP).
However, many of those policies have been developed in isolation, by institutional research support staff responding to successive announcements on OA by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
They have succeeded in developing and implementing workable policies in a fast-changing area but inevitably this approach leads to significant differences between policies – which brings us back to the theme of this year’s OA week. Are researchers really free to collaborate openly with their peers in the UK and overseas if they are unintentionally tied by the conflicting OA requirements of two or more different institutions or funders?
The answer, of course, must be ‘no’. The European Commission (EC) anticipated the difficulty and took steps to head it off back in 2012 when it recommended closer policy alignment - in the UK this process is under way. HEFCE's OA policy is relatively aligned with the EC's Horizon 2020 policy, and many of our universities are considering ways to achieve closer alignment with major research funders’ OA policies.
It is a key focus of the European PASTEUR4OA collaboration to foster alignment of OA policies. Since the last OA week we produced a suite of resources designed to help universities and funders wherever they are in their transition to OA.
OA policy resources
Of particular interest in the UK (we have produced similar briefs for other European countries, too) is the brief on open access, describing how OA policy has developed over the last decade. It provides some helpful context.
The brief is useful for its insights into projects that can support policy development and into practical ways to test new funding and publishing models. It also explores the development of infrastructure to support OA, such as institutional repositories.
You’ll also find a brief on OA policy effectiveness, setting out the various elements that a successful OA policy needs to cover and identifying five policy elements that are most effective in improving the proportion of research outputs that are published in OA.
We have distilled these five key elements from a close analysis of 120 mandatory OA policies implemented across Europe. These are:
- Research articles must be deposited in the institutional repository
- The above action can’t be waived, whatever the conditions of any embargo
- If the policy states that an author should retain certain rights over their published work, this cannot be waived
- Items deposited must be made OA – if necessary, after any embargo period ends
- Deposit of articles is linked with research assessment and the performance evaluation process.
These two briefs are complemented by a third that explains the similarities that exist between policies developed by individual HEIs and where the main differences occur. Differences have been frequently encountered with the date when research outputs must be deposited in the repository and also licensing conditions.
There are more, so this is a useful document for drawing policy makers’ attention to the policy areas that are likely to need most work.
Whether you are responsible for OA policy development within your institution, or simply interested in exploring the possibilities that OA opens up for researchers and research, it is worth taking a look at PASTEUR4OA’s full suite of advocacy resources. You’ll find templates on policy-making, case studies on policy implementation and numerous briefings on related subjects such as research data, article processing charges (APCs) and measuring research impact.
International open access week takes place between 19-25 October 2015.