Open access and the geographical community
The move towards ‘open access’ (OA) publication of research will have far reaching effects on higher education in the UK. At present, the situation is changing rapidly and much remains uncertain.
The Society will try to keep the geographical community informed about the emerging context and support them in the transition process. As publishers, we will also do all we can to ensure our own journals are compliant with UK OA mandates, in a way that supports all the community across career stages, institutional affiliations and sub-disciplinary areas.
The Society is involved in policy discussions about the implementation of OA: Society Director, Dr Rita Gardner, was a member of the Finch Group and is on the JISC OA Implementation Group. We have consulted widely on responses to consultations, notably from HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) on OA publications and the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2020 and RCUK (Research Councils UK). This page includes a brief summary of the current situation, key documents and recent announcements, which we will keep updated.
The RCUK policy on open access (PDF) came into force on 1 April 2013 and is accompanied by a list of FAQs (PDF) to support researchers in understanding the requirements on them. RCUK will allocate block funding grants to institutions to support payment of article processing charges (APCs). To date, HEFCE have indicated that research outputs submitted for REF 2020 should be as widely and freely accessible as possible but have not confirmed their policy.
Thank you to those who responded to the calls from HEFCE and RCUK for feedback on their open access policies in March 2013. The Society's responses are available on the consultation responses page. The Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee also held an Inquiry into Open Access on 16 April 2013.
Context and details
The UK Government, European Commission and major funders of higher education have expressed support for expanding access to research following the recommendations of the Finch Group set up by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Their statements will impact on the way some research is disseminated because they include requirements that much publicly funded research is made open access (freely available to all readers) and available for text and data mining and re-use, including commercially.
The Finch Group and BIS have been followed by RCUK in indicating strong support for the payment of APCs to allow research outputs to be made Gold OA – that is, all readers can freely access the published article immediately on publication instead of them or their institution purchasing or subscribing to it, because the APC has covered the cost of publication. RCUK also state that this Gold OA must be under a CC BY licence, the most accommodating Creative Commons licence allowing others to 'distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon' research outputs, even commercially, as long as they credit the original version.
Where funds to cover APCs are not available to an author, research funded by RCUK will have to be made Green OA (preferably allowing commercial re-use), which is when versions of published papers (in this case the post peer-review accepted manuscripts) are archived in online repositories hosted by institutions or funders, for example. Publishers and other funders have different rules about which version can/must be archived in this way and when, which also vary by disciplines. Many publications have already changed their licensing policies to accommodate authors subject to these varied requirements.
Not all of this is new, as some funders, particularly in the US, have mandated this for some time and Green archiving has been requested by funders and institutions in the UK. There are a number of routes currently available for Gold OA publication, including fully OA and hybrid (part subscription, part OA) journals, and many institutions host repositories for Green OA. What is new in the UK includes the scale of the mandates; shorter embargo times in some contexts, which may threaten some journals’ sustainability; the availability of some funding to pay APCs; the burden on institutions to administrate APC block grants; additional conditions of text mining (with data mining expected to follow) and the potential for commercial re-use of research outputs.
Key statements and policies