Five years of Finch – what next for Open Access policies

It's time to look back on the impact of five years of OA and to look to the future.

It’s five years since the Finch report Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications set out a roadmap to improving open access to scholarly literature in the UK. 

The new body UK Research and Innovation has announced it will undertake an internal review of OA policy and will be seeking evidence from outside organisations. It will review evidence on the performance of existing policies; comparisons with OA policies worldwide and explore how future policies should develop. 

SCONUL is planning to bring together members to discover what changes they would like to see in OA policies at research council and national level. And the Jisc Collections Content Strategy Group has published a discussion paper in which it sets out what it considers to be the current status of Open Access in the UK. 

There has been a significant growth in OA, but there are significant associated costs 

  • In 2017 54% of UK authored articles were made open on publication (compared to 32% globally) – the UK is a global leader in the proportion of its research being open
  • The average APC increased in cost by 16% between 2013 and 2016
  • Expenditure on APCs has at least quadrupled between 2013 and 2016 

Has the UK approach incentivised a global transition to OA? 

  • The UK remains an outlier in the provision of a block grant earmarked for the purchase of APCs
  • Even in the case of European countries that do fund OA, they usually have caveats including limiting funding or requiring offsets against subscription costs
  • The UK is the only research-intensive nation to adopt this approach of funding APCs. As the volume of subscriptions and OA content continues to grow, UK institutions will bear the cost of both subscriptions and OA for some time 

What are the negative consequences of funding APCs?       

Some (perhaps unintended) consequences include:

  • It has entrenched prestige of journals as a primary signifier of the article quality
  • It has entrenched the subscription model

You can read the Jisc discussion paper here.