Open Access, Canadian Style

3 03 2015

As readers of this blog know, I’ve been following the issue of Open Access academic publishing for quite some time. When the British government first mooted the possibility that all RCUK research would need to be published in Open Access format, I liked the idea. I then realised that the devil is in the details. Publishing an article in Open Access format means requires the author (or the author’s employer) to pay a fee that is typically around £1k to £2k. (When I published an article last year in a journal owned by Springer, a German firm, the fee was over €2,000). The requirement that an article has be published in Open Access to count for the next REF has been very controversial. I’ve covered this controversy in my blog posts on the Finch Report, Green Open Access, Gold Open Access, Open Access Week, etc. The key issue is that someone needs to pay for the costs of running journals and if people can read articles for free, it will be the authors and their employers who pay. Luckily, the minister in the UK government who was pushing the Open Access agenda, David Two-Brain Willetts, realised this and decided to set aside from money to be given to some British universities to cover article processing fees for their staff publications.  He made this change in response to criticism by Adrian Bailey MP who rightly pointed out that the rush to Open Access was going to cost universities more than anticipated.

I see from Ian Milligan’s blog that the Tri-Council research agency in Canada, which is equivalent to the RCUK, has decreed that funded research outputs there now need to be published Open Access. This story is of interest to me because I am part of collaborative grant funded by SSHRC, the social science research council in Canada.  I hope that the Canadian government has fully costed the impact of this move and has set aside funds so that it is revenue neutral for both academics and universities.  Let’s hope that the Canadian parliament has MPs who are as intelligent and far-sighted as Adrian Bailey. Unfortunately, Canadian parliaments typically have a lower level of human capital than their British equivalents.