In previous blog posts, I have discussed the value of open research, the reasons behind its complexity, and the importance of retaining rights over our research outputs. In this final post of my short series, I look to the future, with an optimism that seems appropriate to the time of year. Aberdeen is not presently enjoying the warmth being reported further south (my mother is deadheading her daffodils, while I am still awaiting flowers on mine) but the green shoots in my garden as spring arrives are a metaphor for what I hope to see blossoming in the world of open research this year.
I am timing this post to align with the news that the sector has struck a landmark deal with Elsevier for continued access to ScienceDirect. This agreement both saves the sector money and increases its ability to publish openly in Elsevier titles. It is policy compliant and removes a layer of administration, saving time for researchers and for librarians. The work across the sector to achieve this has been enormous, but the result more than vindicates the efforts we have put into it. I am delighted that Aberdeen played a significant part in this work. My colleagues have contributed to a national initiative to test an alternative to a bulk subscription, and I have represented the sector at the strategic level through membership of the Jisc/UUK Content Negotiation Strategy Group. As well as being a major success for this round of negotiations, our collaborative work has also delivered a framework for all future negotiations with major publishers.
This is very timely, as we are now close to the launch date of the new UKRI Open Access Policy, on 1 April. I discussed this in my most recent post, but as a reminder, this policy will restrict your Gold Open Access publishing options, and it will require any Green Open Access deposits to have no embargo imposed on the date of their open access release. The Library has been doing a lot to communicate this, but if you are unaware of the changes and need advice or information, visit our web page about UKRI OA policy.
This is not a reason to rest on our laurels, however pleased I am about what we have achieved with Elsevier. There are four reasons I remain enthusiastic to do more:
Not all publishers and titles are compliant. Nature titles are not, and neither are many published by IEEE. This means that for a large number of journal titles it is impossible to publish in any way (Green or Gold OA) and comply with the terms of your funding, where this includes a UKRI grant.
- Deals such as the Elsevier ScienceDirect agreement combine subscriptions and open access. However, we have now definitely reached the point of questioning why subscriptions for access to research outputs exist at all. I am really pleased that we have recently supported three initiatives that only publish research open access:
- PLOS (formerly Public Library of Science). From 1 April, researchers will be able to publish open access at no cost in PLOS Computational Biology, PLOS Digital Health, PLOS Genetics, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, PLOS ONE, and PLOS Pathogens
- Open Library of the Humanities. This organisation supports academic journals from across the humanities disciplines, as well as hosting its own multidisciplinary journal.
- Opening the Future. A very recent commitment, this is a collective subscription model for books with the aim to convert the two publishers to a sustainable open access model for front-list titles which does not require Book Processing Charges. UKRI will require monographs to be open access from 2024, so it is important to support initiatives that aim to make that easy and affordable.
- Open access for other funders will soon align with UKRI. I expect the next REF to require the same conditions.
- It is the right thing to do. Getting back to basics, why would anyone choose to hide research behind a paywall and limit the opportunities others have to benefit from it? Let’s stop doing that, irrespective of whether we are being told to by our funders, or not.
The best way to guarantee we can achieve open access to our research, in all circumstances, is to stop giving away our control over it. I discussed this in my previous blog, and can now announce that Research Policy Committee have supported my proposal to enshrine this in University policy. I will now start to develop a draft and consult on whether this can replace our existing policy (which is now extremely out of date). From my perspective, asserting that we will no longer give our rights away seems like a blindingly obvious thing to wish to do, but it’s really important that I hear other perspectives, and provide reassurance where there are concerns. You will have formal opportunity to comment as the draft makes its way through the committees, but I’d really like to hear from you now, whether it is to learn more, to express support, or to challenge my views.
Finally, I’m really pleased to announce that a lot of effort towards a relaunch of Aberdeen University Press as an entirely open access publisher reached a landmark this month. We have signed a contract with a partner who will provide infrastructure and publishing services. Ubiquity Press has a mission to support open publishing, and powers a large number of similar existing services, including the university presses of Cardiff, LSE, Westminster and the White Rose consortium (Leeds, Sheffield, and York). We will formally seek expressions of interest in either joining the academic board or submitting publications later this year. In the meantime, if anyone would like to know more, I’d be very happy to discuss it.
Maybe I’m torturing my metaphor to suggest that Green shoots and Gold flowers are representative of a bright open access future, but I really do have a spring in my step about it. I’d best stop now, before the puns get even worse…
Simon Bains, University Librarian. (To be found musing about these issues on Twitter @simonjbains).