Jisc’s evidence to the review of the RCUK OA policy

I suspect that there has been a large number of written submissions of evidence to the independent panel reviewing the implementation of the RCUK OA policy; Jisc is on the panel, and has submitted evidence, of which here’s a summary. The full document, slightly longer than the 3000 word maximum requested by RCUK I’m afraid, is here -> Jisc evidence to RC OA policy review 20140910.

As an overall comment, Jisc agrees that OA is a journey, not an event, and this is strongly borne out in our evidence. The RCUK policy is only one of the significant parts of this journey; the REF OA policy is also driving change in the sector and, from an institutional perspective, all these policies need to be dealt with by the same people at the same time – and at the same time that research data policies are also coming into force.

The main points we make in our evidence were that:

1. Dealing with APCs at scale is new to everyone, and no-one has got it cracked, not institutions, publishers, intermediaries or Jisc. The workflows and information flows imply new joins between stakeholders and systems, many of which are not used to / set up to join up efficiently. Legacy systems, lack of technical standards, tensions between different needs, etc mean that the data that would underpin a scalable APC environment are often absent, incomplete, wrong, ill-defined, and/or stuck somewhere.

2. In the new outcomes collection service being launched by the RCs, based on ResearchFish, there is perhaps an opportunity to promote interoperability with institutional systems, to the benefit of both. [CASRAI might help]

3. Despite clarity from RCUK on licence requirements for Gold OA, this area remains too complex and unclear in too many cases.

4. Many publishers are working with Jisc to develop offsetting models that limit the total cost of ownership of journals for institutions, at a time when they are paying APCs and subscriptions. However, not all publishers have perhaps shown that they recognise the importance of this to their customers.

5. Despite the problems noted in (1) above, quite a lot of APC data has now been released by universities and funders, and that seems to show APCs converging at around the Finch Report estimate of nearly £2,000. Given the recent report from the Wellcome Trust on the functioning of the hybrid journal market, and the rather high proportion of UK articles now in hybrids, there is a concern that innovative and cheaper publishing options might be being squeezed out.

6. The Sherpa/FACT service is well-used, some 2000 journal checks every month, suggesting that institutions are both observing carefully how they can comply with the policy, and the continuing need for clarity in that area.

7. Institutions have a critical role to play in supporting compliance with the RCUK OA policy.

As a member of the independent review panel, I’m looking forward to reading the evidence from a wide range of stakeholders, and making recommendations that help speed the way to OA while recognising the challenges implied by that transformational change.

By Neil Jacobs

JISC Programme Director, Digital Infrastructure (Information Environment)

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