Over the last few days both the United Kingdom and the European Commission have made open access announcements that suggest the National Institutes of Health (NIH) public access policy will soon have a lot of company. Many have written about it, and I will try to contribute something new to the discussion, or at least connect things that have not been tied together so far.
The U.K. government gave plenty of signals that it would further embrace open access for the research it funds. This week’s decision was an official response to the Finch report, requested by the government to analyze the issue. The government has opted to pursue a ‘gold’ open access strategy, where access to journals would be made free to the public. This is in contrast to a green OA strategy, which would encourage depositing research papers in repositories, possibly with a short embargo (essentially the de facto state of affairs under the NIH policy). While the next few years will effectively be a hybrid system of green and gold access, the U.K. wants all publicly funded research to be available for free by 2014.
The European Commission has announced that it will have open access as an expectation for the grants funded through its Horizon 2020 program. There goals are more modest, desiring sixty percent of European funded research to be open access by 2016. This is consistent with U.K. interest in talking with their European colleagues in encouraging continent-wide open access.
A lot of the concerns over the U.K. plan is that the gold model is being pushed too hard too fast. The financing of the plan seems to be a cost shift of journal subscription fees from the current subscriber base to the U.K. government. For those concerned with the practices of scientific publishers, this doesn’t seem to be quite as much reform as open access is usually seen to be. This does not mean that gold open access is bad. But how it is funded, and who pays, is important. An advantage for green open access is the encouragement (officially or otherwise) of institutional repositories for research and research publications.
But this kind of assumes that scientific publishing doesn’t have to be done in journals. And maybe that’s where the U.K. wasn’t willing to go. Are there repositories in the U.K. comparable to PubMed and ArXiv in the U.S.? Would they like more? Encouraging enough green open access may make it easier to answer yes.