Evolutions in Scholarship

During July 2012...

Rising awareness

Friday, July 27, 2012 9:24 pm

With the 2012 Summer Olympics underway, many eyes and ears are turned toward London, anxiously awaiting news of much hoped-for victories. But for many involved in scholarly publishing, our attention has been drawn across the Atlantic for some weeks now, as open access news has been coming from both the UK and the EU throughout the summer. To some, the news is welcome and championed as being a step in the right direction for ensuring public access to publicly-funded research. To others, it’s cause for concern. Here’s a quick overview of what is happening, and some thoughts on how these changes might impact us in the US.

In June, the “Finch Report“–a report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings, so-called for the chair of the group, Dame Janet Finch–was released, calling for the British government to support broad public accessibility to funded research articles via open access publishing. While the call for accessibility is laudable, the recommendation that it be achieved exclusively through open access publication and not archiving was sharply criticized. In mid-July, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced that under its new open access policy, all RCUK funded research articles submitted for publication beginning April 1, 2013 must be published in journals compliant with the new policy and be freely available to the public within 6 months (STM) or 12 months (social sciences and humanities), effectively meaning that in under two years, all RCUK research articles will be fully open access. The following day, the European Commission followed suit, announcing that under the Horizon 2020 research program, all funded research articles will be open access. While it is too early to predict how the implementation of these policies will impact research budgets and publishing (although some are trying), broad European political support for public access to research output is clear.

Closer to home, this week the U.S. News and World Report published an article on scholarly journals and open access. Although I share a colleague’s criticism of several misunderstandings in the article, the fact that such an article was published in mainstream media is telling. As Barbara Fister points out in her own Olympic-inspired post (hat tip for the theme prompt!), the rising awareness of inefficiency in the scholarly publishing industry and increasing demands for greater access to research outputs has been steadily rolling since January. The Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) is once again before Congress with strong bipartisan support, and the “We the People” petition to the White House calling for taxpayer access to publicly-funded research garnered over 28,000 signatures in less than half the 30 days allotted to reach 25,000.

Although the White House has not yet responded to the petition, and the FRPAA legislation may yet stall as we move ever-closer to November elections, I am encouraged by the multiple signs of increasing awareness of open access I have seen this year. I hope it continues. Oh, and Go Deacs competing in the Summer Games!


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