UCL to implement Open Access policy for all research

3 June 2009 by Noah Gray, posted in Uncategorized

First, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences did it at Harvard. Then MIT announced a similar policy that affected the entire institution. Now University College London has established their own Open Access policy. Except, this time it is a little different, at least that’s what it seems like for the moment.

The difference is the lack of a loop-hole, which exists in both Boston institutions’ policies, allowing researchers to “opt out” of depositing into the public repository as long as an exemption was acquired. Opting out has been necessary for scientists at Harvard and MIT to continue publishing with a large fraction of journals since these Open Access policies are not compatible with the exclusive licensing agreements required by the publishers. So, it seems that researchers at UCL will not be able to publish their work in many of the top research journals because of the explicit retainment of commercial rights for UCL. Of course, we are still early in the game and UCL may still release an addendum, as Harvard did, stating that indeed, an opt-out policy does or will exist.

I previously discussed the Harvard policy, arguing that I wasn’t sure what exactly it accomplished besides letting the University top brass crow to the public about how progressive they were and interested in scientific communication to the public. Most non-scientists would probably not be aware of the exemption clause and therefore cheer Harvard (and MIT) for their openness. However, based on my reading of the press release (below the fold) and sans addenda, I think we will now have the first case setting up a stand-off between a University (UCL) and the publishers, unless of course the publishers want to abandon all future research done by UCL faculty and UCL faculty want to limit their publication choices.

For the record – Nature Publishing Group encourages authors to self-archive the submitted version of their manuscript 6 months after the publication date, a policy that complies with recently passed legislation from the NIH stipulating that work supported by NIH grants must be publicly self-archived within 12 months of publication

The full press release follows… (cont.)

3 June 2009
UCL to implement Open Access policy to all research
UCL (University College London) has today announced the establishment of a UCL Publications Board that will implement the university’s Open Access policy and be responsible for ensuring that, subject to copyright permissions, all UCL research is placed online in the university’s institutional repository, freely accessible to all. This move places UCL at the forefront of academic institutions who are pioneering the move to Open Access, as the first European university ranked in the global top ten in the THE – QS world university rankings to do so.
UCL has already given all of its PhD students the option of making their theses available in its online repository, open access, giving these far greater visibility than they would enjoy as paper copy on library shelves. In academic departments across UCL there is already a broad take-up of Open Access, and the records of the whole of UCL’s 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) return have been loaded into the repository, with links added to the relevant version of the full text where copyright permissions allow. The creation of the UCL Publications Board extends this situation to the whole of UCL’s published research output. The Publications Board will oversee the rollout of UCL’s Open Access mandate, and promote Open Access both within UCL and beyond as an important scholarly medium for the dissemination of research.
Open Access is a new form of dissemination for published books, articles, conference proceedings and digital outputs. Its principles are based on the Berlin Declaration, which urges authors to retain the rights in the materials they produce and to place a copy in an Open Access medium – in UCL’s case the university’s electronic repository – so that they are available free at point of use to anyone, anywhere in the world, with an Internet connection.
“In the competitive environment of a global higher education market, Open Access repositories provide a platform on which a university can showcase its research,” says Dr Paul Ayris, Director of UCL Library Services. "Open Access helps prospective students make a judgement on which University to choose, shares blue-skies research with the widest possible audience, and supports outreach activity to open up higher education to new communities.
“In addition, at a time when library budgets are under enormous pressure, Open Access is a means of ensuring that subscriptions do not become a barrier to use. Material made available in an Open Access repository is available to everyone with a wish to view it, and free at point of use. As part of our move towards Open Access, we will also be investigating the best ways to roll it out in a way that might offer a model for the sector, and we would be happy to discuss our experiences with colleagues from other institutions.”
Prof Anthony Finkelstein, Head of Computer Science, says “Impact is the watchword for research and this depends on it reaching the widest audience possible. Open Access is a critical enabler for this. UCL’s plans to build a major scholarly resource around its Open Access policy is warmly welcomed by researchers across UCL.”
Professor Chris Carey, Head of Greek and Latin, said: “The potential benefits of Open Access as a means of making cutting edge research available across the world cost free are enormous. This is an opportunity to make a major impact in regions where cost is a potentially insuperable obstacle to access. The scale, diversity and outstanding quality of UCL research make us ideal leaders in this field.”
Notes for Editors
1. For further information about UCL’s Open Access strategy or interview requests, contact Dominique Fourniol in the UCL Media Relations office on +44 (0)20 7679 9728 or d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk.
2. The UCL repository for research output that is already Open Access can be viewed at http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk.
3. The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities can be viewed at http://oa.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html.

An interesting work-around was proposed by Maxine in the comments of my previous post on the Harvard policy:

It is also worth pointing out the Nature journals’ policy on preprints, which is to allow posting in preprint servers and so on, at any stage before or during the submission/consideration process.

In the case of an institution such as Harvard, that wants the research it funds to be freely available, it can make its academics post preprints in the university repository as soon as the work is complete and the paper written. Whether this is compatible with other publishers’ editorial policies, I do not know.

In other words, deposit the preprint, publish the paper in a journal, and then deposit the final peer-reviewed version in PubMed Central 6 months after publication. Of course, this sequence would only apply to some publishers.
Having just begun (although the academic board at UCL did approve this policy in principle about a year ago), it may take a little time for everyone to absorb this and there is a significant chance that we might see changes made based on the fall-out. UCL has made their initial splash and will receive a significant amount of praise for opening up their research. I just hope that if they decide to include an opt-out policy addendum, that announcement will be met with similar exposure. But it probably won’t.

One Response to “UCL to implement Open Access policy for all research”

  1. Joerg Heber | Permalink

    I am not so sure the UCL wants to be that aggressive. The phrase “subject to copyright permissions” in the press release seems to suggest that this policy is only implemented with publishers that allow it? I.e. more like “we do open access whereever possible”, rather than enforcing their own opinion? There is also no mention of enforcing an addendum to publishers’ licence agreements.

    Will be interesting to see how this develops…


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