Harnad, Stevan (2013) Worldwide open access: UK leadership? UKSG Insights, 26, (1), Winter Issue, 14-21.
The web is destined to become humankind's cognitive commons, where digital knowledge is jointly created and freely shared. The UK has been a leader in the global movement toward open access (OA) to research but recently its leadership has been derailed by the joint influence of the publishing industry lobby from without and well-intentioned but premature and unhelpful over-reaching from within the OA movement itself. The result has been the extremely counterproductive ‘Finch Report’ followed by a new draft of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) OA mandate, downgrading the role of cost-free OA self-archiving of research publications (‘green OA’) in favor of paying subscription publishers over and above subscriptions, out of scarce research funds, in exchange for making single articles OA (‘hybrid gold OA’). The motivation of the new policy is to reform publication and to gain certain re-use rights (CC-BY), but the likely effect would be researcher resistance, very little OA and a waste of research funds. There is still time to fix the RCUK mandate and restore the UK's leadership by taking a few very specific steps to clarify and strengthen the green component by adding a mechanism for monitoring and verifying compliance, with consequences for non-compliance, along lines also being adopted in the EC and the US.
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