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Scholarly Communications Model Policy and Licence: Publishers' Association Concerns together with UK-SCL Steering Group Responses

Responses to recent concerns raised by the Publishers' Association about plans to introduce a model open access policy for UK Higher Education Institutions in order to simplify the complex funder and publisher policy environment currently experienced by UK academics.

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Key Publisher Concerns with the SCL 
 
 
Publisher Concerns 
 
 
Steering Group response 
SUMMARY 
 
The main concerns publishers have with the SCL is that:‐ 
1) It would impose a very significant administrative burden on 
researchers, their institutions and publishers.  Its proponents have 
assumed that researchers will not seek waivers.  This is a profound 
misconception arising from a lack of consultation with publishers.  
The PA estimates that waivers would be required for 90,000 – 
100,000 journal articles per year, and in many cases multiple waivers 
would be required for multiple authors at multiple institutions.  
Publication would be delayed while waivers were sought and 
granted, delaying publication and affecting the impact of UK 
research.  Substantial additional costs would be incurred by 
institutions and publishers.  We have not even begun to estimate the 
cost to researchers in their time. 
 
 
There is a current, significant, burden on researchers, their institutions and 
publishers in managing the existing process of understanding the exact terms, 
licence choice, embargo period and hence compliance position of each article. 
Currently 100% of outputs have to be checked. 
 
The proposed policy is based on the Harvard model which has been in use 
since 2008 and has been adopted by over 60 institutions worldwide, including 
Ivy League universities whose publishing outputs eclipse the numbers 
published in total in the UK. Under the Harvard model policy, waivers are 
requested for less than 5% of articles. We are at a loss to understand why, 
therefore, the estimate is so high for UK authors and why UK authors might 
be treated differently to their counterparts in existing “Harvard policy” 
institutions. 
 
 
2) It conflicts with UK policy on open access, putting green open access 
before gold, even where funding is available for gold, and 
undermining the sustainability of green by removing any embargo 
period.  It appears to be based on an assumption that there is no 
value in publishers’ management of peer review, their services to 
authors and their maintenance of journal brands, as it effectively 
assumes that this investment be discounted. 
 
 
 
There is no single “UK Policy on open access” under which UK academics are 
operating. 
 
Jo Johnson, in his response to Professor Adam Tickell’s advice1
 states: 
“Research Council policies are not determined by Government, but I know 
they are looking carefully at your report”.  He also stated “I am also keen that 
funder policies are harmonised and simplified as far as possible, so that the 
research community is not unduly burdened”.  
 
The UK‐SCL is an interim harmonising measure being put in place by 
                                                            
1
 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/499945/bis‐16‐122‐open‐access‐research‐response.pdf 
institutions whilst progress is made at the funder level, and whilst the “off‐
setting arrangements and better value … for higher education institutions” is 
negotiated at publisher level. 
 
The RCUK policy (which is relevant to a subset of UK authors) has a preference 
for gold, and this preference is partly funded, with the present round of 
funding due to end by April 2018. 
 
However, in para 8.10 of the Finch report we find: 
 
Nevertheless, the transition across the world is likely to take a number of 
years. During that period, all three of our mechanisms – licensing and 
repositories as well as open access and hybrid journals ‐ will remain in play. 
Measures to increase access will therefore have to include the more 
effective use of all three; and it is important that progress on all fronts 
should be carefully monitored.  
 
The REF policy, which is scheduled to cover all UK HE outputs that might be 
submitted to the REF, is open to either the green or gold routes, with no 
preference between them.
  
We observe numerous reports linking the availability of an open access copy 
of an output to increased citation levels, e.g. 
https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/openaccessboostscitationsfift
h, and an earlier collection of evidence via this: 
http://opcit.eprints.org/oacitation‐biblio.html  
 
Although not directly equivalent it is nonetheless relevant, pre‐print 
repository deposit of the type offered through arXiv similarly supports a 
mutually symbiotic relationship between green OA and publishing. Here 
again, the evidence demonstrates clear citation advantages where there is 
also a green OA version available. 
 
 
Publisher embargo periods vary. We observe a growing number of publishers 
which already operate a zero month embargo for some or all of their journals, 
including:  
 
IEEE 
SAGE 
CUP 
Elsevier 
American Physical Society 
AIP Publishing 
EDP Sciences 
Taylor and Francis 
London Mathematical Society 
Company of Biologists 
The Royal Society 
 
 
OUP 
Association for Computing 
Machinery 
American Psychological 
Association 
American Diabetes Association 
SPIE 
IET Journals 
BMJ Journals 
AAAS (Science) 
 
 
 
3) It seeks immediate non‐commercial re‐use rights for all UK research 
outputs, again undermining the ability of publishers to earn back 
their investment in editorial services and journal development. 
 
We are puzzled at the assertion that non‐commercial re‐use rights might 
threaten commercial rights. 
 
The retention of non‐commercial rights by the institution allows the publisher 
to earn back their investment in the publishing process while also allowing 
taxpayers to the access the research their taxes have funded. 
4) It potentially limits the choice of researchers in where they publish 
their research, again affecting the impact of UK science. 
 
The UK‐SCL has been drawn up so as to preserve the academic freedom to 
publish in the journal of their choice 
 
It only limits the choice of researchers if publishers insist on imposing 
conditions which force academics to ask for waivers and that such waivers are 
not given (meaning the researcher must choose a different journal). The 
publisher, and not the UK‐SCL would be limiting the choice of the researcher. 
Waivers 
Publishers would have no choice but to require authors to obtain waivers 
from the SCL.  It is estimated that around 120,000 – 140,000 journal 
articles are published by UK corresponding authors each year.  If we 
assume that 25% of these are published on gold open access basis or do 
not otherwise require a waiver; that leaves potentially 90,000 – 100,000 
requiring waivers.  The chart below shows the share of UK‐authored 
articles published by PA member publishers in 2015 and therefore the 
scale of the likely impact on UK research published by a broad range of 
publishers. 
 
 
 
Publishers do have a choice. For the 60 plus institutions which have already 
implemented the Harvard model policy, on which the UK‐SCL is based, 
publishers exercise that choice in <5% of articles. 
 
As noted above, there are a growing number of publishers, including PA 
member publishers, operating a zero month embargo.  
 
UK Academics will need to understand why there is a proposal to treat their 
outputs differently to those of their counterparts in institutions in the other 
countries which have implemented the Harvard model policy. 
. 
The cost of administering such a large number of waivers, multiplied in 
many cases by the need for multiple authors at multiple institutions to 
These costs would only be incurred should publishers seek to treat UK authors 
differently from their counterparts in institutions which have already 
Comment [CB1]: There are 12 
segments in the pie and only 11 on the 
legend. What is the makeup of the 38%> 
seek such waivers, would be enormous, for institutions, for publishers 
and, in time expended on the task, for researchers.  We estimate that 
this would dwarf the costs incurred at present for manuscript deposit in 
repositories, which were estimated to be £4‐5 million per annum in a 
2014 report (Counting the Costs of Open Access, 
http://www.ariessys.com/wp‐content/uploads/Research‐Consulting‐
Counting‐the‐Costs‐of‐OA‐Final.pdf) and with the implementation of the 
HEFCE REF policy have almost certainly increased substantially since 
then.  This runs counter to the sector’s focus on efficiency, championed 
for example by the UUK Open Access Coordination Group. 
 
implemented the Harvard model policy. 
 
Currently the inefficiency in the system in the UK is in part because of the 
differing policies implemented by government and other organisations (RCUK 
/ REF / Wellcome et al) combined with the many and varied publisher policies, 
some of which differ depending on the funding status of the academic. The 
UK‐SCL considerably increases efficiency by reducing the need for each and 
every article to be checked both for funder policy and for REF eligibility. In a 
single clear and unambiguous action authors can comply with their funder 
and can have their research eligible for inclusion in the REF.  Since the Stern 
report has proposed that the research of all academics with significant 
responsibility for research should be entered into the REF, this is of 
importance to each and every research academic at each institution in the UK. 
Furthermore, while the SCL notes the ability of an institution to grant a 
waiver, it places no obligation on the institution to grant one.  This would 
introduce further uncertainty for authors (and their publishers) and 
potentially limit their publishing options.  This is in stark contrast to the 
Harvard model licence, which the SCL proponents claim as a model for 
theirs, which stipulates that waivers will be granted on request of the 
author. The Harvard licence notes this is ‘important for the palatability of 
the policy’ and alleviates concerns around freedom to accommodate 
publisher policies.  The SCL also currently differs from the Harvard model 
in that the waiver, if granted, would only last for two years; under the 
Harvard model the waiver is granted indefinitely. 
 
It will be for UK institutions and their authors to determine whether a waiver 
is appropriate. Should a waiver result in an output being ineligible for the REF 
or being in contravention of their funder policy (e.g. because of the period 
requested), then this discussion between institution and author will be crucial 
before granting any waiver. The implications of the waiver will need to be fully 
understood by the academic and their institution. 
 
The length of the waiver is intended to support academics in eligibility of their 
research for the REF. 
The SCL also makes no attempt to take into account policies in countries 
other than the UK where, for example, such mandates may not be 
imposed on researchers.  This would add further to the burden on 
researchers in complying with such a licence. 
 
Researchers already face a burden with co‐authors in other countries as a 
result of the funder/REF mandates. It would not add further to the burden, 
merely alter slightly the discussion that already needs to be had between co‐
authors in different funding jurisdictions. 
UK policy and embargo periods for green open access 
The SCL rides roughshod over the Finch recommendations and UK 
government policy on open access.  UK policy expresses a strong 
There is no single government policy on open access. 
 
From the RCUK policy; “The choice of route to Open Access remains with the 
preference for gold and RCUK has made substantial funding available for 
this, yet even where funding is available the SCL proponents appear to 
favour green.  UK policy also recognises that where funding is not 
available for gold open access then green open access must be based on 
reasonable embargo periods to enable publishers to earn back their 
investment in author services, peer review and journal development and 
management.  The SCL makes the default position one of no embargo 
whatsoever; rather, immediate access to the Accepted Manuscript under 
a CC‐BY‐NC licence which would enable immediate non‐commercial re‐
use. 
 
researchers and their research organisations and, where funding for APCs is 
unavailable during the transition period, longer embargo periods will be 
allowable” This clearly leaves the choice with the researcher and their HEI. 
Importantly, it does not say that where funding exists that green is not 
permitted. 
 
The RCUK policy is applicable only to a subset of research at UK HEIs. It is a 
partly funded gold OA policy, intended to support a transition to gold OA. The 
current period of funding comes to an end in March 2018 and as yet there is 
no clarity on whether further funding will be made available to support the 
policy. Moreover, the RCUK policy can only work if other funders take a 
similar approach. Sadly this appears not to be the case and we understand 
that this both makes it challenging for publishers to affect the transition to 
gold, and for research intensive institutions to fund that transition. 
Agreement at inter‐governmental level would be required in order to truly 
achieve the transition envisaged by the Finch group. Whilst it is acknowledged 
that there may be enough money in the system to support wholesale pure 
gold, this money is distributed across continents and a re‐balancing of funding 
within and across the UK would not, alone, support the transition to gold OA 
for UK authored outputs.  
 
The REF policy, on the other hand, is applicable to all researchers at UK HEIs 
who are to be entered for the REF. Moreover, section 36 of the main policy
includes this statement:  
 
However, where an HEI can demonstrate that outputs are presented in a 
form that allows re‐use of the work, including via text‐mining, credit will 
be given in the research environment component of the post‐2014 REF. 
We further recommend that institutions fully consider the extent to 
which they currently retain or transfer the copyright of works published 
by their researchers, as part of creating a healthy research environment. 
 
This statement has perhaps been overlooked by the publishers? It is the 

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