UKCoRR Response to HEFCE’s Open Access Policy for the Post-2014 REF

Following their consultation in the summer of last year[1] HEFCE have released their policy on open access in the post-2014 REF process.  This is the third open access policy from a major UK funder in as many years and there are lot of reasons to be cheerful.  HEFCE’s policy as published this morning is a genuine, cost effective route to widening the access to the UK’s research outputs.

Firstly I would like to commend HEFCE for their acknowledgement of the work done by the UK repository community, both institutionally based and subject based something that has been disappointingly lacking in the other policies of its type.  The UK has a (still-) growing and passionate repository community who are doing great work which has been misunderstood and poorly valued by the Finch Report in particular.  The new policy from HEFCE is a chance to stand-up and demonstrate the value of our services to the academic community and to the other research funders as well.

I would also like to acknowledge the commitment of HEFCE to work with the repository community to ensure that all of our systems are ready to comply with this policy by the time it takes effect, regardless of their shape and set up.  There are a number of issues and process questions that the policy leaves unresolved at the moment, these we would urge HEFCE to make clear as soon as possible.  This issues have the potential to cause a number of resourcing issues for HEIs in terms of tracking and ensuring compliance.  We look forward to discussing these process issues further with HEFCE.

HEFCE’s policy also takes a pragmatic view on the issues of licensing and exceptions.  There is a strong awareness of the complex nature of academic publishing throughout the policy.  There is also a real sense that HEFCE is trying to take into account every part of the UK academic community in a way that accepts the distinct needs of the different disciplines.  We also welcome the commitment implicit in HEFCE’s policy for researchers continuing to choose the “most appropriate” venue of publication for their outputs even if it means their options for compliance are reduced.

The suggestion of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No-Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) license and the fact that requirements to allow text-mining are now missing from the policy as well as the extensive list of allowed exceptions[2] make the policy practical but do not go as far as many would have liked.  However they will allow institutions to meet the requirements comfortably.  We need to remember that these are minimal requirements, we are always free to strive for more and HEFCE have stated that they will acknowledge the efforts of those who do[3].

This is a policy routed in the belief that the route to open access is a long term one and will only be achieved incrementally.  HEFCE’s policy coupled with the policies of bodies such as RCUK, the Wellcome Trust, Horizon 2020 and others are part of the continuum of open access and unless the underlying business models that drive this sector change we won’t ever get true or ‘libre’ open access as it is just not financially practical.  We in UKCoRR have the skills, knowledge and passion to make this work and I look forward to working with HEFCE, Jisc and our researchers to do just that.

[1] UKCoRR’s Response to the HEFCE consultation has been published on this site along with our responses to other similar consultation documents.

[2] A full list of the permitted exceptions in their categories has been extracted from the HEFCE policy document by UKCoRR for the use of their members and others.

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