[This is a blog post I originally posted on Google+ some months ago. But it’s still relevant now, not least for me as I try to beat the deadline to submit certain papers, or I’d have to pay a very hefty fee to have them published under the required open access rules.]
I’ve been increasingly concerned by the UK government and research councils’ plans to switch to insisting on open access for UK-funded research output. On the one hand I think open access to academic journals is a very good thing. But I have grave doubts about the model they’ve chosen. It’s not going to stop institutions having to subscribe at great cost to journals, otherwise they’d miss international contributions. And there is going to be an additional cost added, pushed primarily onto authors, for paying for open access provision. Estimates of this new cost vary, and the cost will vary by journal, but 2000 pounds per article is frequently talked about. The trouble is this money has to come from somewhere. For people in university environments or applying for new research grants it’s possible that their employer or funder will support them, although this will put a greater financial burden on the public purse which the taxpayer will ultimately have to pay for eventually. But there is also a long tradition of independent research, particularly in the arts and humanities, and many independent scholars who do not have access to such funding support for publishing costs. Such scholars may have benefited from research council support during their PhD, as I did with my AHRC-funded part-time PhD. Thus any output from their theses falls under this new scheme. But they did not get extra money to pay for unanticipated future publishing costs. So they will have to shoulder any such costs out of their own pocket. This is going to badly reduce the number of such scholars who can afford to publish, and they will also be restricted in terms of which journals they are even allowed to publish in. It’s hardly good for the future of scholarly publishing and getting your research “out there”. Incidentally don’t assume that funded PhD people got large pots of money and can afford to pay 2000 pounds per article, especially if non-university employed. My AHRC award paid for my tuititon fees directly to the university. Only in the last couple of years of my part-time PhD did I get a very small maintenance grant. There is nothing left over to pay for these new publishing costs. And if you do hope to work in academia it’s ever so important to publish. But can everyone afford to?
For the UK Research Councils’ announcement about this new policy see here.
And for concerns expressed recently (October 2012) by the President of the Royal Historical Society see here.