Recent developments in open access

A report from an Open Access Event  Bournemouth  7th May 2014 #BUOA2014

Benefits of open Access / Alma Swan – Director of Advocacy for SPARC Europe and director of DOAJ

Alma felt that in the last 6 months to a year, the “indifferent majority” is beginning to wake up to open access, partly due to the HEFCE policy announcement of open access requirements for the next REF. It is important that it is peer reviewed literature which is made open access to avoid losing quality control and becoming vanity publishing. Open access should be immediate, free to use and free of restrictions to be ideal. She was pleased to see that scholarly communication is starting to change as she felt that the internet should have made more difference in this area before.

Individual authors gain visibility, usage, impact and a better personal profile from using open access. She gave examples – a philosophy lecturer “Self-archiving in the PhilSci Archive has given instant world-wide visibility to my work. As a result, I was invited to submit papers to refereed international conferences / journals and got them accepted”.

Prof. Martin Skitmore from the School of Urban Design, QUT, Australia “There is no doubt in my mind that ePrints wil have improved things – especially in developing countries such as Malaysia — many more access my papers who wouldn’t have thought of contacting me personally in the “old” days.  While this may … increase…citations, the most important thing…is that at least these people can find out more about what others have done”. Alma stressed that article use from repositories is usually from people who do not have access to the journal and is therefore a new audience. Alma looked at an example of the University of Liege, one of the most successful repositories and showed the increase in use of their papers.


HEFCEs Open Access Consultation and REF2020 / Ben Johnson – Policy adviser, HEFCE

Ben reminded us that open access is a global movement and mentioned that two other countries are considering adopting the HEFCE policy. He pointed out that it is enabled by new technology and by the “gift culture” of academia where academics are giving their work for free. Cost of journals is a driver but also new technology such as text mining to cope with the huge amount of information available. The top priority for open access is to allow people to read articles which are currently behind paywalls but allowing reuse and text mining is also an aim.

The aim of the HEFCE policy is to significantly increase the uptake of open access options, to protect author choice as much as possible and to stimulate the deposit of work in repositories. The core principle of the policy is “Outputs submitted to a post-2014 REF should be “open access”.”

The policy has minimum requirements but will also give extra credit for institutions who go further than necessary. The minimum requirements are that:

  • The final peer-reviewed draft of a paper must be deposited in the repository on acceptance.
  • The repository record must be discoverable asap.
  • The full text must be accessible asap (or once an embargo has elapsed – They are keeping to the RCUK embargo periods for simplicity though hope they will come down in time.).

It applies to all journal articles and most conference proceedings, although not those published within book series.

96% of work submitted to the last REF could have been made open access under existing publisher policies so that will be the target for the next REF. A 4% margin will be allowed for publishers with a longer embargo or other exceptions – a reason will have to be given with the REF submission but they intend to be “light touch” and not require too much burdensome evidence to back up the exception.

The policy will not apply to data, images, books, creative works etc. However, credit will be given to universities who go beyond requirements, perhaps by including these things, by allowing reuse and liberal licences where possible. The policy starts in 2016 but credit may be given for starting early.


It was noted that people have personal feelings about their work which have to be treated sensitively. Some academics in the audience did not like the most liberal licences as they wanted people to ask them to use their work. One academic noted that when he has completed a paper he just wanted to get rid of it and didn’t want to mess around submitting it to a repository although he accepted that he should – probably a common feeling!

Behavioural change is needed which is difficult but the HEFCE presenter felt that the full engagement of authors is vital and that technical solutions alone are not the answer.

One participant suggested that journals will sometimes accept a licence to publish instead of an author signing a copyright agreement – even Elsevier had done this when pushed although they used their own wording so it is worth talking to publishers about their terms – an example licence to publish from JISC.

The importance of adding keywords to repositories and using terminology which people are likely to search for in search engines was mentioned.

Note that full text can be added to the Swansea repository Cronfa via the Research Information System. Contact your subject librarian if you need help.


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