Finch Report Highlights The Challenges In Funding Open Access Publishing

The announcement last month that the U.K. government would push for open access publishing for research it funds was made in advance of the blue ribbon panel examining the issue.  Headed by Dame Janet Finch, the report was released earlier this week (executive summary also available).

The report focuses more on how to move from the current publication models to an ecosystem where open access and/or hybrid access models are the norm for U.K. research.  How open access journals will fund their publishing is a major focus of the report, as the end goal of this policy shift is not simply to have government funded research freely available after an embargo period (as is the current practice with the National Institutes of Health policy), but to have it freely available at publication.

Currently such ‘gold’ open access is funded primarily via article processing charges, and a significant portion of the report tries to determine the costs needed to make this transition a reality.  Given the U.K. government’s near fetishistic approach to budgetary austerity, I can’t be surprised by the obsession over cost.  It may blunt the speed by which this effort moves forward.  However, unless Minister Willetts delays a formal policy announcement informed by this report, I think this government is still committed to trying to make this work, to make this vision a reality.

“Our view is that the UK should embrace the transition to open access, and accelerate the process in a measured way which promotes innovation but also what is most valuable in the research communications ecosystem. The process itself will be complex, since as the transition develops over the next few years, no single channel can on its own maximise access to research publications for the greatest number of people.”

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