Science Europe has just published its Principles for the Transition to Open Access, which outlines policy in line with Recommendations from the European Commission but very different to the policy now being implemented for Britain by the RCUK (Research Councils UK). Science Europe is an association of European Research Funding Organizations and Research Performing Organizations, based in Brussels. It was founded in October 2011 and represents 51 Research Funding and Research Performing Organizations from 26 countries, with total annual budgets of around €30 billion. By comparison, RCUK’s budget is around 3.2 billion.
The RCUK has followed recommendations in the Finch Report with block grants to universities funding the payments of APCs (Article Publication Charges), to enable them to make available their published research output as Gold (author pays) Open Access. We are already seeing a significant increase in Open Access articles in so-called hybrid journals(those based on subscriptions but offering an OA option).
The Science Europe document, however, makes the unfounded claim that the hybrid model as currently defined and implemented by publishers is not a working and viable pathway to Open Access. It goes on to state that any model for transition to Open Access must prevent ‘double dipping’ and increase cost transparency. Clearly those who drafted the Principles have neither understood the robustness of the hybrid model (using established publications with the editors and peer reviewers not knowing whether the article submitted will be ‘author paid’) nor appreciated its importance in enabling authors to continue to publish in leading titles in their field and enjoy the benefits of Gold Open Access. In addition, they have failed to follow the rapid progress publishers are making in revising pricing models to provide transparency based on subscribers only paying for non OA content.
Generally the Science Europe Principles favor Green OA, although whether that is sustainable with the recommended short embargoes (6 months for STM and 12 months for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences) does not appear to have been addressed.
There is mention of co-operation, exchanging experience and information, and engaging in collective activities, but none of these are indicated in the drafting of the Principles. By being the first mover, the UK has taken on a huge burden with the RCUK’s implementation meeting heavy criticism. It has responded to some of this criticism and, in the spirit of compromise, publishers are working with funders to realize their vision. Unfortunately, though, the lessons learned in the UK have been ignored by Science Europe.