A new report released on 27th March 2009 by Universities UK and the Research Information
Network, delivers an important set of recommendations aiming to ensure best practice at UK higher education institutions (HEIs)
in relation to the payment of open access publication fees. The UUK/RIN working
group included representatives from universities, research funders, publishers
and research authors, and the report’s recommendations identify actions each of these groups
can take in order to ensure that the funding of open access publishing is handled in a
A key focus
of the report is the need for institutions to take an integrated approach, and
to communicate clearly to their employees. The report notes that "the response
in the UK to the development of open access
journals remains haphazard". It also notes that a 2008 JISC
survey of UK biomedical authors found that "only 28% of those employed by
HEIs believed that they had received any guidance from their employer on the
payment of publication fees" even though 72% of these respondents had published
in an open access journals in the last 5 years
this lack of clearly communicated policies, the report recommends "HEIs should designate a single person at
senior level (for example, a pro or deputy vice chancellor) to coordinate their
activities", and furthermore "All funders should clarify how they will provide
financial support for researchers in meeting their open access policies in
general, and the payment of publication fees in particular."
that the payment of Open Access publication fees as directly-incurred costs (i.e. from grants) is often problematic, the report unambiguously advises institutions
to develop central open access funds: "We recommend HEIs
establish dedicated budgets to which researchers can apply for funds to meet
the costs of publication fees".
relevance extends beyond the UK, especially in the light of recent
mandatory open access initiatives in the USA at Harvard and MIT.
Central funding for open access publication costs is a natural way to ensure
that such open access deposit policies can be sustained long-term, without
undermining peer-review and the journal system on which scholarly communication
depends. BioMed Central has produced case studies on
several institutions which already have such open access funds in operation, and we are forward to collaborating with the many other institutions that are now working to develop similar schemes.