The Research Councils of the United Kingdom have released a draft of their new policy views on open access to publicly funded research outputs. This draft policy, which can be viewed here, proposes a set of policies and frameworks for requiring that research findings funded by RCUK be provided to the public within six months of publication. The exception is work funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which would require a maximum of twelve months prior to public access.
Very similarly to similar efforts in the United States, this has drawn harsh criticism from those in the publishing industry. In RCUK’s case, it is The Publishers Association that is providing comment on the recent action. Their reaction, which can be viewed here, is centered around the concept that RCUK has not provided a sufficiently sustainable framework and set of guidelines to ensure long-term success of its proposed policies, and that it does not make any account for the resultant impacts to the British publishing industry and related economic concerns.
This draft policy, although containing unique properties, is quite similar to the ongoing bill in the US Congress, H.R. 4004, also known as the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2012. The overall goal of both actions is for the governments that are providing the funding for the research to have a mechanism to ensure that the findings and outputs from that research reach a forum that is accessible not only to other scientists and academics, but also the general public. Both actions have cause a good deal of reaction in their respective publishing industries.
With open access, the biggest question that remains is who or what ends up paying the costs. Recent schemes have included an “author pays” mechanism, and have also come under a great deal of criticism from the academic communities. RCUK, in their draft policy, is currently recommending that these costs can be included in grant proposals.