UK Plans To Make All Government-Funded Research Free To The Public Immediately Upon Publication

from the groundbreaking dept

We’ve discussed the fight in the US over open access to government-funded research in the past. Currently, the NIH requires any NIH-funded paper to be publicly & freely available one-year after it’s been published. That gives journals one-year of exclusivity to profit off of the work before it’s more widely available. There have been some efforts to block government agencies from requiring such open access, as well as proposals to expand it to other agencies beyond the NIH. We also recently wrote about a proposal in New York to do something similar, but with six-month of exclusivity, rather than a year.

Of course, some people take offense to any such exclusivity, seeing as we’re still talking about taxpayer-funded research. Over in the UK, it appears that they’re going to go completely in favor of open access, with a plan requiring immediate free access to any taxpayer-funded research. That’s big news. Under the scheme, research papers that describe work paid for by the British taxpayer will be free online for universities, companies and individuals to use for any purpose, wherever they are in the world. The plan will be rolled out over the next two years, but by 2014, it sounds like all such research in the UK will be widely available for free.

Unfortunately, not all of the details sounds as good. The proposal tries to make the journals okay with this by forcing researchers to pay an “article processing charge” for each paper they publish, and it sounds like some of those funds go back to the publishers. But, of course, that’s putting more of the cost on the universities that fund the research, and there’s reasonable fear that this will lead those universities to ration out how many publications are “allowed.” Many open access advocates preferred a different plan, that still involved academics doing deals with journals, but which also allowed them to publish the works online. The publishers, of course, weren’t happy with that plan.

More open access is definitely a good thing, but I worry about any sort of plan that involves an explicit attempt to prop up a legacy industry that doesn’t want to adapt. That seems very likely to create economic waste and to be abused at the cost of the public.

Filed Under: , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UK Plans To Make All Government-Funded Research Free To The Public Immediately Upon Publication”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Grrr Argh says:

Pubs: “They won’t pay us and are threatening to put their work online for free themselves”!

Gov: “How about we make them pay you if we are paying them? Maybe we will throw in some kind of accreditation bureau, you can staff that with your retirees.”

Pubs: “So you just give us taxpayer money but through researchers so it looks like we do something?”

White-collar welfare! To big to work! Why innovate, you retire in 10 years and this worked when you were 30?

xenomancer (profile) says:

A Step in the Right Direction

Even though there is a silly fee attached to it, at least the value of access to research has been recognized, even if just indirectly. Access like this would have likely prevented issues like the debacle over vaccination with Nature. With more people reading the articles and critically analyzing them, the peer review process will benefit from the implicit check by the public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

True it is not as if the journals actually review or edit these papers from researchers themselves, they have other unpaid researchers who want to publish their own work do that for them.

The only things the journals bring to the table are than the ability to print and bind them (redundant since most people just look at the original paper on-line now), host the files, being associated with the name of the journal (pretty much the only thing that counts) and charge huge fees to view or even sometimes to submit.

No, I have no idea how this makes sense either.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not that I’m against open access, but as someone that publishes a scientific journal, I spend my whole day simply making this information readable.

Imagine a 100 articles all written in different fonts, in different formats, with whatever style the author makes up for tables and charts that they created in Excel, or Publisher, or Powerpoint, or Word, or whatever other software they like to use. It’s a mess.

Rather than being gatekeepers, publishers bring uniformity, making the information easier to read and understand, and curation of the most noteworthy and relevant information. It’s not as simple as dumping your data online.

The question is what is that worth to the science community?

DNY (profile) says:


Bingo! The preeminent journal in my area of mathematics is now a peer reviewed free online journal that provides LaTeX style files so all the papers end up beautifully typeset in a uniform style, the main service scholarly journals provided back in the old days. The very small cost of running the thing is paid by a Canadian university that maintains a print copy of the journal in its library and hosts the server that maintains the online version. (I’d be happier if it had mirror sites based on a few other continents, but that would triple the donated cost required to keep it up and running.)

Beech (profile) says:

“That seems very likely to create economic waste and to be abused at the cost of the public. “

Indeed. The problem, as ever, is that the economic waste is filling the pockets of the legacy industry, allowing them to bribe politicians to make sure they still get a disproportionate say in getting laws passed. To a politician the problem is, “If I don’t make sure these guys still make money, then they won’t have as much money to give to me!”

Our system is bullshit.

Mwhahaha says:

You are of course forgetting our (the UK’s) utter inability to deliver any promised service on time (or indeed on budget). Especially when it involves computer systems of any kind.

Anything planned for 2014 I’d expect to see arrive at sometime around 2017, where it will arrive with horror stories of its cost.

I’d much prefer to see some previously closed libraries reopened with that kind of money.

What’s the point in making information so available if half the population can’t read terribly well or understand what’s being said?

On face value it is a good thing, but in the current economic climate, it does rather feel like we’re repainting the living room whilst ignoring the subsidence in the kitchen.

I’m confused how it’s the people doing the research which have to pay, that seems quite backwards. Surely if anyone has to pay the people who want the information should be paying (small amounts) to see what they want. I feel I’ve misunderstood what’s been written, but I’ve read it 3 times now and come to the same baffling conclusion.

The Guardian doesn’t pay me to read their paper every day and M&S don’t pay me to wear their knickers.

Dionaea (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually it’s true that if you want to make an article available for free as a researcher, you have to pay a (hefty) one time fee to get it online.

And I do agree that it seems to make more sense to have people pay to see what they want to read, but costs are currently ridiculous. I came across an article while searching for info for my master thesis this week where you had to pay $25(!) for access for ONE STINKING DAY. If the journals were the least bit reasonable I don’t think there would even be an open access debate.

I do think that articles should be free after a while though, articles over 20 years old are either basic things you should just be able to read or outdated stuff which is only interesting because it’s part of the history of a field, you shouldn’t have to pay for things like that.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...