Jun 012007

Universities UK – the representative body for the executive heads of UK universities and is recognised as the umbrella group for the university sector – has published a Policy Briefing entitled Publishing research results: the challenge of open access.

It has not attracted much comment, perhaps because it is a surprisingly unbalanced and partial review. It ignores completely, for example, two reports (one written by myself, and the other by Chris Beckett and colleagues at Scholarly Information Strategies) which presented studies into the potential impact of self-archiving on journal subscriptions.

The Briefing focusses primarily on promoting the idea of universities establishing preprint servers to support author self-archiving. It quotes low costs for this, which apparently date from 2004, but makes no mention of later studies such as the Association of Research Libraries survey which showed average costs were much higher. The authors also fail to discuss in any detail the key problem of persuading authors to use repositories even when they exist, beyond blithely noting that this would

require a change in culture and the prospect of incentives. Action would be required by government and research funders, but universities would also have a key role to play in advocating the use of repositories.

Similarly, the authors cite a 2004 (non-peer-reviewed) paper supporting the proposition that open access articles receive increased citations, without mentioning a number of subsequent studies that have cast doubt on the explanation of open access as the cause of increased citations (as opposed to a quality bias, for instance).

And although it has only just appeared, there is little reference to recent material. Overall, beta-minus for Universities UK.

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