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New Developments

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Open Access as a movement is now 30 years old and through adoption as a requirement by major research funders and the Research Excellence Framework is an established element of research workflows in the UK. 

Researchers normally engage with open access in one of two ways: 

  1. Gold Open Access – the published version of the article is made immediately available free of charge to readers under a licence; 
  2. Green Open Access – the article is made available free of charge to readers and authors through a repository, though often as the accepted version after an embargo, under a licence 

Because gold open access can be costly if the journal has an article processing charge, it can prohibit who is able to choose to publish via the route, and funders have reflected this in policies that acknowledge green open access as a viable alternative. However, the embargo periods frequently applied by publishers to green open access mean a significant delay that have the potential to slow the development of the scientific record. The speed of the Covid-19 response was helped by publishers providing free access to all relevant research and release of research as preprints. 

Recently, a group of funders called cOAlition S have expressed desire for open access to be the default option in publishing, and are concerned that the open access options offered by publishers are not changing quickly enough to enable this to become a reality. As a result, they issued principles for Plan S, to inform the new OA policies of cOAlition S aligned funders. In the last year, Wellcome TrustHorizon Europe (successor to Horizon2020) and UKRI have announced new policies that lay out extra requirements for open access. 

  1. The author must choose a publisher who will allow the author to retain copyright in their accepted manuscript, rather than transferring to the publisher during the publication process. 
  2. The author must not publish in a venue that imposes an embargo on sharing the accepted manuscript if using the green open access route, so that the manuscript is open access at the point of publication. 
  3. If publishing via a gold route, the funder will not provide funds for publishing in subscription journals, except where that journal is part of a transformative agreement that will transition the journal to full open access within an accepted timeframe. 
  4. All articles must be released under a CC BY licence, which allows the widest range of reuse of an article, except where the author has successfully requested an exception from policy. 

The Open Access Policy for the next REF is to follow now that the UKRI policy has been released As Research England is part of UKRI, it is expected to follow some, if not all, of these recommendations to continue the direction of travel towards default open access. This will affect all researchers based in higher education institutions to some degree, and there will likely be a transition period to allow the new policy to be disseminated and any new institutional workflows to be established. 

Additionally, all of these funders are introducing open access requirements for long form publications like monographs and edited books to be enacted in the near future. The requirements are generally lighter touch than journal articles, with a wider range of licensing allowed and embargoes allowed. More details are due to be revealed for these policies before they come into effect. 

While open access to books is arguably less developed and popular than in journals, a number of open access book publishers already exist. Book publishers have been exploring a number of different models for open access publishing: 

  • Subscription models – By maintaining a subscriber base, the press is able to commit to produce a number of open access books in a year, with authors from subscribing institutions having access to publishing resources. 
  • Book publishing charges – The cost of publishing is borne by the author, who must find the funding for open access publication. 
  • Mixed publishing models – The publisher provides an open access version of the book, but this is in a specific format, such as pdf. Access to a printed version or other electronic formats is through purchase by the reader. This model is used by some university presses. 
  • Crowdfunding – Using crowdfunding platforms, a book is only released on open access if enough patrons donate to the fund. This has hidden costs for the author who is likely to need to engage in a publicity campaign to recruit donors. 

Open access book publishers are listed at the Directory of Open Access Books and the Open Access Scholarly Publishing Association. 

Alongside these attempts to improve open access, funders are increasingly recognising that research is only truly open if the data underpinning its findings is also open. As such, researchers are often asked to share their data, often via data repositories. In some cases, publishers are also requesting that data is made available as well. 

Data journals were listed in the post on alternative publication routes yesterday, and researchers can also use generalist repositories like Zenodo and Figshare to share their data or more specialist repositories such as those listed by re3data. When choosing a repository, it is important to check it meets your funder’s requirements. 

Alongside this, also mentioned in yesterday’s post, funders are providing publishing platforms that allow outputs from all elements of the research lifecycle to be shared, allowing greater transparency and reliability in research. This also means that for funded researchers there is always an option for publishing articles, if a suitable commercial publisher cannot be found. 

To help researchers meet these requirements, the University of Wolverhampton is building research infrastructure to address these new developments : 

  1. If researchers want to publish gold open access articles but have no funds, the university takes part in a number of transitional read and publish deals. As more deals become available, the library will share details of the new deals. 
  2. If authors want to choose a green open access route for their publications, WIRE is available to deposit in. 
  3. We are seeking procurement for a data management solution for sharing and preserving datasets. 
  4. We will continue to communicate changes in policy via our library webpages and other routes. 

If you are in receipt of research funding, and are unsure how to meet your funder’s requirements around open access and open data, or if you would like advice on other publication routes, please contact the Scholarly Communications Team for advice. 

 diagram illustrating the benefits of Open Access

Stuart Bentley 
Scholarly Communications Librarian 

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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