Should the Finch Report have gone for green not gold?

open access logo, Public Library of ScienceLast week Matthew added a post (Decisions, decisions: where do I publish?) about the long-awaited Finch Report into expanding access to published research findings. The Report advocates a move to Open Access publishing for all government-funded research, a view which has been embraced by the Government. Open Access publishing is something that BU fully supports and encourages academics to undertake and just over a year ago we launched a central, dedicated budget specifically for paying Open Access publication fees on behalf of our academics (BU Open Access Publication Fund). Even so I am somewhat disappointed with the decision of the Finch Report and the reason for this is because the Report isn’t green, it’s gold.

The Report supports the gold open access model of publishing – this is where authors pay publishers for the privilidge of having their work published which, upon publication, is made freely available to anyone (no need for a subscription) on the internet. The green open access model on the other hand describes the situation where articles are published in subscription based journals as now, but a peer reviewed final copy is placed in an open access repository (such as an institutional repository like BURO). Unfortunately the gold model simply redistributes the costs of publishing by charging authors publishing fees up front rather than readers on a subscription basis, and by so openly supporting gold over green the Report is clearly supporting the commercial interests of publishers over the interests of UK research, universities and the general public. It could be argued that a better outcome of the Finch Report would have been support for green open access publishing by increasing the number of UK institutions and funders with green open access mandates from 40% to 100%.

At BU we are lucky that we have the BU Open Access Publication Fund to meet the fees of open access publishing (i.e. gold model) but what about if this budget cannot keep up with demand during a fast transition to gold open access publishing? And what about authors who don’t have access to similar funds and who can’t pay? Many PGRs and ECRs in the UK might fall into the latter group and a lack of published articles could put them at a disadvantage when applying for jobs and progressing their careers.

Last week the THE ran an interesting article on the Finch Report (Staggered open-access gold run ‘won’t break bank’) reporting that the move to gold open access publishing will be a steady transition rather than an immediate change. However the speed at which the Government adopted the Report’s main recommendations and promoted the benefits of the gold model, coupled with RCUK’s publication of a final version of their new open access policy (in which researchers are required to publish in gold open access outlets or self-archive outputs within 6-12 months, depending on discipline) and news that the four funding council’s (including HEFCE) intend to consult over plans to require all papers submitted to the next REF to be published in open access journals, gives the impression that the transition may be more imminent that the THE article suggests.

Overall it can only be a good thing that the Finch Report and the sector at large is so supportive of open access publishing – however I wish the Report had been a little less biased in its outcome and hope that universities are given the time required to make the transition smoothly. Thankfully BU is ahead of the game with the BU Open Access Publication Fund and we will continue to keep up with external developments to ensure BU staff are fully supported with open access publishing. We will also continue to support colleagues with making published outputs available via the green model of open access, i.e. self-archiving on BURO. Our new system BRIAN will tell you the publisher’s rules on self-archiving when you click through to add an output to BURO (via BRIAN). This will also be checked for you by the Library prior to the output going live in BURO.

If you’ve published a paper via a gold open access outlet we’d love to hear about your experience – do you think this has increased the impact of your research and has making your findings available quicker to a larger audience made a difference?