This post outlines some potential new issues arising for OA in the UK, and Jisc’s work in this area, arising from Brexit. It has been drafted rather quickly, and is intended as an aid for discussion, rather than anything definite or exhaustive.
OA has been a top-down and a bottom-up change for over a decade, for example with UK research funders having OA policies from the mid-late 2000s, and repositories being developed well before then. EU involvement in OA has followed this pattern, and over roughly the same timescale. In common with many other areas of life, OA in the UK has increasingly been also embedded in an EU context. Brexit will change that.
Dimensions of EU activity, and the implications of Brexit on UK OA
The EU does three things. It is a policy body / regulator, a research funder, and funder of infrastructure. In each of these three areas, it has long-standing and recently refreshed activities in the area of OA.
EU policy has been influential in two ways – both enabling the UK to influence the direction of OA policies among the 28 members, and vice versa. Since some approaches to OA (eg APC-based Gold OA) are highly dependent on an international move in that direction, this is significant.
- The UK and Dutch governments jointly circulated a “non-paper” in 2015, to try to get consensus on a balanced approach to OA that included both Gold and Green. With the Dutch perhaps now more isolated in the EU on this topic, a rather more “Green” position might be confirmed, and the influence of those who oppose hybrid journals may increase.
- The most recent policy move by the EU has been the report on the outcomes of the Council Conclusions on Open Science [PDF], which set a target of 100% OA by 2020, and delegated to a committee of the national contact points (BIS in the UK) consideration of the recommendations from the Amsterdam call for action . The degree to which UK may be able to influence, or be influenced by, this initiative seems uncertain now.
- The PASTEUR4OA project, in which Jisc is a member, finishes in July 2016. Its striking finding, that there are 433 OA policies across Europe, is likely to galvanise EU efforts to align policies. The UK may be outside of this effort.
- The main research funding mechanism is H2020. My understanding is that UK participation in H2020 projects and proposals remains unchanged while the UK is a member of the EU, but thereafter would depend on the terms of any UK-EU agreement. If the Norway model is followed, UK participation could depend on open borders and acceptance of single market regulations, neither of which would appear to be popular in the UK. Eligibility for ERC funding is restricted to EU member and associated states. It remains unclear, therefore, whether the OA policies associated with these schemes would remain relevant after the UK leaves the EU.
- The major EU infrastructure relevant to OA is OpenAIRE, in which Jisc is a partner. Since one purpose of OpenAIRE is to help implement the EC Framework programmes’ OA policies, this may become less relevant to the UK. However, as an international research infrastructure, there might be incentives to see UK research represented in OpenAIRE even after the UK leaves the EU.
- A second significant infrastructure, relevant to monographs, is the OAPEN library. However, while this arose from EC funding, it is now independent and no Brexit-related risks are obvious in UK engagement with it.
- Jisc (Sherpa) and the Directory of OA Journals are, via SPARC-Europe, seeking an international mechanism to sustain global OA services. This is not directly relevant to the EU, since the organisations with whom we hope to engage include LIBER, the EUA, and Science Europe. However, we would hope that both the EC and ERC would also be engaged. That should remain an option, as it does not rely on UK membership of the EU.
- If UK universities need to become even more competitive to win research funding, from the EC/ERC or wider international sources, and if the UK public finances (including research funding) come under further strain, then the efficiencies that can be derived by using shared services (such as a shared repository platform) might become more relevant for universities.
- Effective devaluation of sterling, plus significant volatility in the financial (especially currency) markets, may lead to an increase in risk aversion among HEIs with respect to budgets for journal expenditure. This risks HE paying more than it might for deals, including offset and other OA-related deals. Jisc will, of course, strongly seek measures to mitigate this risk.