This is the text of a document prepared by Meera and me on Article Processing Charges as currently understood and the serious risks we think they pose to academic freedom and funding, broadly understood (previous discussed by several contributors to our open access series). It is also available as a pdf, and we encourage academics to think carefully about the issues foregrounded, and to act accordingly.
- The Government is pushing academic publishing to a ‘pay-to-say’ model in order to achieve open access to publicly funded research
- This ‘gold’ route to open access, which levies Article Processing Charges (as proposed in the Finch Report and taken up by RCUK and HEFCE) poses a major problem for academics in the UK:
- It threatens academic freedom through pressures on institutions to distribute scarce APC resources and to judge work by standards other than peer review
- It threatens research funding by diverting existing funds into paying for publications (and private journal profits) rather than into research
- It increases academic inequality both across and within institutions, by linking prestige in research and publishing to the capacity to pay APCs, rather than to academic qualities
- It threatens academic control of research outputs by allowing for commercial uses without author consent
- In response, academics should:
- Practice and lobby for ‘green’ open access of all post-peer reviewed work within journals and institutions
- Lobby against proposed restrictions on REF2020 and against compliance pressure for ‘gold’ open access
- Demand clear policies from Universities around open access funds
- Ensure institutional resources are not unnecessarily spent on APCs
- Protect the integrity of scholarly journals by rejecting the pressure for ‘pay-to-say’ publishing
Open Access: Rushing Implementation
Many academics have been ardent supporters of the open access principle (that peer-reviewed academic work should be freely available and easily accessible to anyone), and were excited when the Government made steps to advance it. However, it has become clear that the implementation of this policy via REF2020 will have very serious negative consequences for all academic authors and institutions, unless authors and institutions themselves start to take action and make their voices heard. It is critical that academics understand what is happening and lobby our pro-VCs of Research, our VCs and Universities UK to defend both academic freedom and open access.
The timescale for action and decision-making is now incredibly short. Several policies, including that of the Government and of RCUK were declared immediately with the release of the Finch Report, totally accepting its views without wider consultation. HEFCE is going to open and close a very quick consultation period early in 2013 in order to issue guidance ahead of REF2020. Some universities have been given until March 2013 to determine what to do with open access funds that they were given in November. And it was only on 29 November 2012 that the first indications from HEFCE were given as to their intentions, at the Academy of Social Sciences (ACSS) conference on Implementing Finch. The timetable for finalising the details of this complex policy is thus extremely short and does not allow for adequate discussion of its serious consequences. Despite this, academics can still play an important role in resisting the threats posed.
So, What is Happening?
In summary, academic journals are being moved from a ‘pay-to-read’ model to a ‘pay-to-say’ model.