Global coalition of organisations denounce Elsevier’s new “sharing” policy

coar-logoA group of organisations led by  COAR – the Confederation of Open Access Repositories, and including SPARC – the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, LIBER – the  European Research Library Association, the National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Creative Commons, has come together to call into question a recently announced policy from Elsevier, on sharing via institutional repositories. The new policy limits dramatically what authors can do with accepted versions of manuscripts, imposing embargoes in some cases of up to 4 years. The AOASG has signed it and we encourage others to do so.

The Conversation has published a blog that discusses the policy’s implications more.

UK Open access: review of implementation of the RCUK policy

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 10.31.55 pmOpening up access to research outputs is undoubtedly vital to achieve optimal return on public investment in research, increase national benefit from research, increase international visibility and future research collaboration.

The UK has taken a difference approach to open access than that of most other nations. The April 2013 policy of the seven UK funding councils under the umbrella term Research Councils UK  (RCUK), follow the recommendations of the 2012 Finch report to the UK Government. The policy has been the subject of much scrutiny because it was a policy position based on the gold model which required funding – it is funded primarily by block grants to UK institutions to pay article processing charges – APCs. As Richard Poynder has noted the Finch Report “ignited a firestorm of protest, not least because it estimated that its recommendations would cost the UK research community an additional £50-60 million a year”.

The Research Councils UK have now published an independent report on the first 16 months of the implementation of their OA policy – one that adds a remarkable amount of data.

Care is taken by the authors of the report to state that it is not a review of the policy, nor to enter into a debate about green versus gold access. The scene is set by the existing policy, although the figures do, in themselves, raise issues about the approach the UK has taken to open access. On a positive the reports says “One common factor amongst all stakeholder groups was a general acceptance and welcome given to the concept of open access.”

The headline figure is significant – £UK16.9 million was spent from the UK Open Access fund in 2013/14. While the early concerns about reaching around half a million pounds has not been reached, it is a very significant expenditure. It should be noted that the limit on costs is affected by a wide variety of factors including organisational capabilities.

Studying slightly over half of the institutions funded through the Fund (55 of 107), the report identifies that implementation of the policy occurred without a streamlined cost-effective monitoring or data collection process. Parallel systems for gold and green access appear to have caused complexities and confusion. The report notes “it is apparent that larger, more distributed organisations have been unable to fully track publications that have been made open access through the deposit of author final manuscripts in repositories”.

The data on the actual APC costs is revealing:

  • Maximum average  APC is £UK3,710
  • Minimum average publisher APC is £UK72
  • Median average publisher APC is £UK1,393

Perhaps the most interesting figure is the number of publishers who received revenue from the fund:

  • 80% of papers were from 14 publishers
  • 90% were from 24 publishers

Who are the largest recipients of APCs (ie publishers)? The report lists the largest recipients in a very useful appendix – Elsevier and Wiley are by far the largest and only two fully open access publishers, PLOS and BMC, are in the top 10:


Clearly with the concentration of publishing in the hands of such a small number of publishers any change in payment policy and practice of fewer than 10 of them for example would have an extremely strong impact on the system.

Written and oral evidence to the review panel found that academics were “’confused’ and ‘disengaged’” in relation to the policy. There was especial confusion over the licenses required. This raises the question of the role of RCUK and other research bodies  and institutions in communicating the policy and the transparency of OA on impact. Danny Kingsley in her blog post on the report notes that the report’s comment that the RCUK preference for gold is a barrier to implementation is anecdotally found at Cambridge University.

Four major areas raised by the report are very important for future developments in OA.

The first is undoubtedly the cost and who receives the funds. The £UK16.9 million has been paid to publishers for many in addition to the revenue received through traditional processes such as library subscriptions and author payments. Double dipping has been the subject of considerable debate by RLUK and others it is notable that (as in Wellcome’s report) and the highest APCs were for hybrid journal articles. The fundamental question raise by librarians has been around whether it is sustainable to increase revenue to a fundamentally small number of publishers.

Second, the sustainability of the existing model. There are signs that publishers may be open to approaching funding of scholarly publishing differently. The Jisc project on the total cost of ownership seeks to develop models where payments to publishers are negotiated on the basis of reducing subscriptions to balance the open access payments. Springer and Jisc have announced a new arrangement to implement a model that takes account of the open access payments.

Third, the issue of embargoes is central to future developments of green and gold access. The report note the continuing concerns of humanities and social sciences researchers about short (i.e. 6 or 12 month) embargoes. A discussion of continued long embargoes is included in the report as well as in the HEFCE commissioned report on monographs and open access. The argument from scholarly societies is around ensuring continued revenue from journal publishing – based on the assumption that primary revenue model in some areas will continue to be based on subscriptions. The report notes that the “panel feels that there is not enough information available at this early stage to come to an evidence-based conclusion on the issue of embargoes and, therefore, its recommendation is to ensure that continued attention is given to the matter in subsequent reviews”

Fourth, it is clear that there is substantial administrative burden associated with the policy implementation and compliance monitoring – for researchers, institutions and the funders involved. The report recommends further thinking in this area, but specifically suggests that RCUK should mandate the use of ORCiD identifiers (something that has just been supported by Australia’s NHMRC and ARC)

This is a must read for all interested in OA and its costs. As the reports says “the conversation on the need for an accelerated transition to open access is no longer one reserved to librarians and open science advocates, but has matured into an international collaboration” Whether the policy is a success or failure will depend upon your views – the costs are significant, however achieving access to 10,066 publications via fully gold open access in the first year (as well as 4,410 publications via the green route also reported in the review) is an important step forward in open access.

Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian (Chief Scholarly Information Services), The Australian National University, Canberra

Virginia Barbour, Executive Officer, AOASG

Published April 21, 2015

Announcement – AOASG Executive Officer Appointment.

Dear Colleagues
I am pleased to announce that Dr Virginia Barbour has been appointed as the Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group and will commence in the new role from 2 February, 2015. Dr Barbour is currently Medicine and Biology Editorial Director, PLOS and has extensive experience in scholarly communications both nationally and internationally, including being Chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Dr Barbour is an accomplished open access advocate with experience in implementing new models for access to scientific research outputs – publications and data. Her qualifications and expertise in scholarly communication are outstanding. She is based in Brisbane.
As an Adjunct Professor at University of Queensland and a Professor in the School of Medicine at Griffith University, Dr Barbour has a deep understanding of the research process and scholarly communications from the researcher’s perspective.
We welcome Dr Barbour to our AOASG Team.
I would also like to take this opportunity to recognise the outstanding work of Dr Danny Kingsley, the inaugural Executive Officer for the AOASG who worked hard to establish the AOASG, as well as the great work done by Ms Susannah Sabine, who took over from Danny mid-2014 and was responsible for organising the AOASG’s first Open Access Forum and open access webinars in late 2014. We are grateful to both Danny and Susannah for their contribution to supporting open access, and wish them well in the future.
Judy Stokker
Chair, Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG)

Christmas releases: Universities Australia and Department of Education reports

Shortly before Christmas two significant reports were released. They provide important insights for policy directions in Australian research, including access to research outputs.

Universities Australia, the peak body for Australia’s university sector, released the report University research – policy considerations to drive Australia’s competitiveness in mid-December. It is an important milestone in their ongoing activities to analyse and advocate for national funding for high quality research.

In January 2014 Universities Australia publicly stated that “mechanisms that allow exposure, sharing, comparison and critique of research are fundamental to the research process, and are an important component of a powerful research and innovation system for Australia. Open access protocols will allow the wide distribution and take-up of Australian research, adding to the quality of research outputs and providing the widest access for local and international beneficiaries”. Its commitment to access to publicly funded research is fundamental to understand the “Access to publicly funded research” area in the report. While the policies of the Australian Research Council (ARC) and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on open access are an important step in national policy development, it is timely to consider the initiatives required to achieve the next steps. The report raises the issues of discovery, providing the example of the Gateway to research developed by the Research Councils UK as a possible solution to the discovery layer in open access.

From a broader open access agenda, it is important to recognise that while the ARC and NHMRC policies are an excellent start, they are but one step towards a government open access policy to publicly funded research. There are real limitations in the initial policies, for example the NHMRC policy only covers “all peer-reviewed journal publications”, not books, book chapters or materials in other formats.

The report notes that institutional repositories exist in universities to make open access research outputs available. There are, however, many issues in making many publications available that need to be addressed, including the cost of author processing fees. The fees remain a significant issue, despite some recent initiatives such as that announced by McMillan Science and Education making read only copies from Nature and some other journals freely available. The UK initiative of additional funding for open access has not been adopted in Australia and a recent House of Commons Committee report has raised many issues that suggest the policy may be set for change (see Richard Poynder’s blogpost). The underpinning issue of expectations that additional funds need to be provided to pay for open access for many publications (Gold model) and the costs of identifying and lodging deposit copies limit the success for the funders’ policies and the aspirations of those supporting public access to research. To date the Gold model adopted in the UK has simply redirected additional funding to large STeM publishers and has not eliminated the other ongoing subscription costs born by research intensive universities.

Research funded by other government programs and indeed produced by government itself cannot be covered by the policies of the two funding agencies. The US established a leadership role early under the Obama administration – the Office of Science and Technology Policy memo released in February 2013 directs that all research funded by agencies with more than $100 million in research and development spending be made available to the public no later than 12 months after publication). The AOASG website lists many other countries that have passed national legislation or policies establishing their commitment to open access for all government funded research (see

The report very usefully analyses research investment in Australia – including investment in researchers and infrastructure as well as research funding. It highlights the success and importance of NCRIS funding while noting that a sustainable national solution is required to ensure the research system is improved and that maximum benefit accrues from public research funding.

The Higher education sector can play a pivotal role in the development of a national policy and program that is required if Australia is to ensure a greater impact is achieved by open access to publicly funded research.” Areas requiring action include policy work, discovery initiatives, publisher pricing models and monitoring to ensure that the open access requirements are actually met.

The Australian Research Data Infrastructure Strategy (TARDIS) was released by the Department of Education in late December. Chaired by Dr Ron Sandland, the Research Data Infrastructure Committee was established by the then Department of Innovation to review the current national research data landscape. TARDIS was developed to advise the Australian Government on the current and future roles of research data infrastructure to support data-intensive research.

Underlying the report is the critical policy issue of ensuring that investments in research can be made, and productivity improved, through research data infrastructure. It notes that the government has made a very significant investment in research data infrastructure over many years, including storage facilities, computation, access and broad support facilities.

The report also places government data in the context of research and notes that “data generated and collected by the public sector is an important asset for research, and cannot be dealt with in isolation from research developments” (p 11-12).

The subtitle, “The Data Revolution: Seizing the Opportunity” goes to the heart of the major arguments which are about the need for nationally funded and managed research data infrastructure based on understanding the opportunities for collaboration (including data reuse) and access to data to meet researchers’ needs.

Within the framework of achieving optimal return from national investment, the importance of open access is argued (pages 25-28). The report notes a national policy is needed “It is timely, therefore, for Australia to consider supporting the set of principles on open scientific research data developed by the G8” (page 27).

These recommendations hinge on the creation of a national research data infrastructure advisory committee to oversee a new range of developments.

Both reports are critical in raising issues of national research infrastructure. They recognise the need for access to publically funded research outputs – arguable the difference between publications and data is a format definition and should not limit the policy framework. All research outputs are significant for developing and expanding future and current knowledge. The need to advocate increased open access to optimise national and research benefit has never been more strongly evident. Clearly while some data will need to be restricted because of ethical reasons, having such a strong statement about the need for policy initiatives from two such eminent groups is to be welcomed.

There is much that will need to be worked through to ensure that developments can be implemented. The nation needs to ensure that there are rewards for researchers who do make outputs available through open access, new models of publishing need to be supported to increase access and monitoring to ensure that open access is genuinely achieved is essential. In addition funding for projects that will improve management access and curation of open access resources must feature in a national agenda to improve the benefit from publically funded research.

AOASG Inaugural Forum an Open Access Success

The Australian Open Access Support group is committed to raising awareness of and knowledge about open access.

2014 saw AOASG launch a new forum which brought together researchers from a range of disciplines to discuss the benefits and challenges of sharing their work through making it open access and communicating it through social media.

More than 50 people came together on the morning of November the 5th.

The event started with an inspiring recorded talk by Dr Erin McKiernan, a neurophysiologist from Mexico, on open access for the early career researcher. She covered what open access is, how to promote and embrace it and why. Her advice on how to debunk many of the myths about open access that get tossed out as road blocks for the ECR was inspirational. (The recording is available here:

Tom Cochrane, AOASG’s patron and Emeritus Professor at QUT, then reflected on the major open access current issues. He discussed the new business relationships and models that may be needed, including regarding copyright and licencing of research information; delved into the effect of funder and government mandates on the big publishers and examined again, as Erin had done earlier, who exactly does not have access to non-open access publications?

Dr Adrian Burton from the Australian National Data Service gave a very comprehensive over view of the comparisons between open access to publications and open data. Many of the funder and government mandates apply equally to the data from research as they do to the traditional article outputs. He noted that while the motivation to comply with these mandates are aligned between the institution and the researchers to make all outputs of research as open as possible, there are some fundamental differences that need not be in conflict. His slides can be found at

Attendees were inspired by a superb discussion by the members of the researcher panel. Prof Andrew Heathcote and  A/Prof Stephen Chalup, University of Newcastle; A/Prof Katrina Schlunke, University of Technology, Sydney;  Prof Laurie Buys and Dr Gillian Lawson, Queensland University of Technology gave a great range of insights. These eminent researchers seemed to relish the chance to explain to the audience their, and their fellow researchers support for open access. Wide ranging discussion included the motivations for selecting publishers, how they determine which research will be open access and which will not, and suggestions to the library community on how they can make the researchers life easier when they have to comply with the open access conditions of their funding agreements. They discussed barriers researchers face when trying to publish, not just open access articles but their data as well. Judging from the comments from around the room the audience were given lots to think about and many things to consider implementing when they returned to their home institutions.

It is clear that researchers need more information and guidance on open access publishing. The AOASG members will consider next steps at the planning day in January 2015.

Thanks to the Australian Catholic University for providing the wonderful venue and to the Australian National Data Services for the excellent lunch.


Forum slides: AOASG – Nov5th 2014

Erin McKeirnan’s presentation

Open Access Scholarly Publishing

What is open access?

When used in relation to the dissemination of research findings, the phrase ‘Open Access’ refers to the practice of making the information freely available to anyone with an internet connection rather than leaving it hidden behind a subscription paywall.

Why is open access important?

Researchers formally share the results of their work by publishing it in the academic literature; primarily in the form of peer reviewed journal articles.  The research behind most of the articles produced in Australia is publicly funded but the vast majority of the articles are published in subscription journals which means that the information is only being shared with those who have a personal or institutional subscription.  By restricting access to only those who can afford to pay for access, the reach and impact of the research is severely constrained.   Practitioners such as pharmacists, teachers, nurses and business people are unable to see the latest developments in their field. Researchers in developing countries are unable to join the conversation.  Open access uses digital technology to maximise the visibility, accessibility and impact of research.

How is open access delivered?

The two main options for delivering open access include:

  • ‘Gold Open Access’ is where the published version of the article is freely available to anyone via the journal website.   If the journal is an open access journal, the entire contents of the journal will be freely available to all.  If the journal is a ‘Hybrid’ journal,  then only some articles will be freely available and a subscription will be required to read the full journal issue.  Some open access journals and all ‘Hybrid’ journals charge authors a fee to make their article open access.
  • ‘Green Open Access’ is where the author uploads, to an institutional or discipline-themed repository, an open access copy of an article published in a subscription journal.  In most cases, the version uploaded will be the ‘author’s accepted manuscript’ (AAM) version (which includes revisions made as a result of peer review but not the formatting, branding and ‘value-adds’ contributed by the publisher). No payment is required but many publishers require an embargo period (commonly 12 months) before the AAM is made open access.

Open Access Mandates

Around the world, 90 research funding bodies, including the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have made it a ‘condition of grant’ that articles arising from their funding are made open access.   In most cases, the obligation applies only to peer reviewed journal articles, but, in the case of the ARC in Australia, the obligation applies to all formats including books. Most funders will accept embargoes of up to 12 months, so researchers are free to choose between ‘Gold open access’ (using part of their grant to pay any article processing charges) or ‘Green open access’ which does not involve paying a fee (but researchers must upload the appropriate version to a repository).

Predatory Publishers: the ‘dark side’ of open access publishing

The availability of  open source journal publishing software, such as OJS (Open Journal Systems), has lowered the cost of establishing a new journal.  Most of the new journals that have been launched using this type of software are managed by groups of academics or scholarly societies.  Generally, they receive subsidies from the host institution which allows the journal to be fully Open Access;   i.e. free to readers AND authors.

Unfortunately, a number of opportunistic entrepreneurs are exploiting the willingness of some research funders and universities to for ‘Gold Open Access” and launching new journals that are money making ventures disguised as scholarly journals.   These journals claim to be peer reviewed but articles are generally all accepted without revision provided the author pays the, generally modest, article processing charge.  Articles containing serious flaws and plagiarised content have been linked to these so called ‘predatory publishers’ as a consequence of the absence any quality control mechanisms.  While these journals represent less than 3% of all the Open Access journals currently available, it is essential that researchers (especially early career researchers) learn how to identify potentially bogus journals.   Clues that a journal may not be truly scholarly include:

  • Journal is not listed in standard periodical directories (eg Ulrichs) and not indexed by the major indexes (eg ProQuest, EBSCO, Scopus, Web of Science).
  • Journal does not identify a formal editorial / review board.
  • Journal’s claims to publish articles within an improbably short timeframe (eg 21 days)
  • Journal claims to have an ‘impact factor’ when they are using metrics with no international standing ( eg Global Impact factor, Index Copernicus, View Factor etc) .
  • Journal falsely claims journal is indexed in legitimate abstracting and indexing services or claims that its content is indexed in resources that are not abstracting and indexing services.
  • Journal/publisher sends email requests for manuscripts, peer reviewers and editorial board members to scholars in unrelated disciplines.
  • Journal publishes papers already published in other venues/outlets without providing appropriate credits.
  • Publisher claims to be a “leading publisher” even though it is a novice organization.
  • Journal has a ‘shop front’ in a Western country for the purpose of functioning as a vanity press for scholars in a developing country.
  • Publisher does minimal or no copyediting.
  • Journal’s “contact us” page does not reveal its location.
  • The journal/publisher website includes spelling and grammatical errors.

For more information about predatory publishers (including a list of ‘suspect’ companies), refer to the website maintained by Jeffrey Beall, a librarian in Colorado.

This work by Paula Callan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This post is also available as a downloadable WORD document: Open Access_Briefing_Paper