In Support of Open Access, Jill Russell, University of Birmingham
Take-up of the green OA route (publishing in a subscription journal but depositing the article in the university’s institutional repository) has been typically slow at Birmingham, and there is a lot of confusion among researchers about what open access publishing - especially the green model - actually is. Gold open access (paying a publication fee so that the article is published as freely available to all) is better understood, and researchers are more willing to pay for the immediate publication that gold provides.
Russell and her colleagues ran a pilot project to communicate with grant holders and grant applicants to encourage them to budget for publishing costs as part of their research projects, and to offer administrative support. They identified the top funders and their policies on OA, focussing mainly on STM where OA already has more of a foothold. Throughout the project they were careful to stress that their researchers still had the choice to publish where they wished, OA or not.
The pilot quickly showed that they had underestimated costs, with the average publication fee being £1500, double their initial estimate of £700. Birmingham’s researchers publish between 3500 and 4000 papers a year, so publication fees to make them all OA would amount to £5 million annually. The budget is £120,000. From September 2009 to March 2010, twenty five articles were funded for gold OA by funding by a combination of Wellcome, MRC and EPSRC.
Birmingham has taken institutional memberships to BioMedCentral, PLoS and Nucleic Acids Research from OUP.
Researchers don’t care about the journal’s business model, just its profile. Articles have to be in PubMed, but many researchers not sure of difference between PubMedCentral and PubMed. The majority of top fifty journals in which University of Birmingham researchers publish do have some kind of OA policy, however many of these policies are extremely unclear, vary vastly from publisher to publisher and sometimes don’t make a great deal of sense (Russell gave an example where paying for gold OA didn’t allow them to deposit the article in their own IR). Publishers really need to make their OA policies clear.
Russell summarised by saying that OA fees are rising rapidly, but subscription fees are falling slowly, so they are not seeing any savings at the moment. If Birmingham were to switch to a complete OA model it would only benefit if publication fees were set at a maximum of £1000 per article.
- EDIT: view Jill Russell's slides (PDF)