This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Manager
Research Councils UK’s (RCUK) new open access policy, which comes in to effect in about three weeks’ time on 1 April, has been a source of some confusion. So it is welcome to see that today they published a guidance document and will take requests for further clarity on this over the next fortnight.
The notes emphasise that the policy will be reviewed next year – including any significant problems arising, such as on the sustainability of Learned Societies – and that RCUK consider the next five years being a transitional period, with 100% compliance not expected in the short term. It also highlights that authors ought still to retain a great degree of freedom in their choice of where to publish. However, it emphasises throughout that RCUK’s preference is for articles to be published with immediate, gold open access, with as few restrictions on re-use as possible.
Some of the key points to note are:
- This iteration of the policy does not mandate open access to research data. However, all papers must communicate how any applicable data and other underlying research information can be accessed.
- The Research Councils plan to increase the funding available for open access over the five-year transitional period.
- They expect a market for Article Processing Charges (APCs) to develop, with a nudge towards researchers and institutions to note that the REF does not use journal impact factors as an assessment tool.
- Authors may publish by the green open access route if they wish, as long as the delay (embargo) between publication and open access does not exceed six months, or 12 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. However, during the transition period there is a caveat through which this may be extended:
- Where researchers do not have access to APC funding for their preferred gold open access journal during the transition, they are encouraged to look at cheaper options in the first instance, followed by a green option with a compliant embargo policy. If there are no feasible options, the paper may be published in a 12 month embargo journal, or 24 months for arts, humanities and social sciences. This PowerPoint slide illustrates this.
- The exception is biomedicine, as the MRC already mandates embargos of no longer than six months.
- Where the gold route is used with Research Council funding, the paper must be freely available under a CC BY licence to allow maximum, attributed reuse. Where the green route is used, CC BY is preferred, but CC BY NC is allowable, as are publisher-specific policies that allow text and data mining and support RCUK’s key aims.
- RCUK grant and fellowship awards which commence after the start date for the revised policy – 1 April 2013 – will not include funding for APCs.
First year of policy: 45% compliance targeted
Second year: 50%
Fifth year: 100%, with 75% delivered through immediate, gold open access and CC BY licencing.
To provide further input, you are invited to email Alexandra Saxon by Wednesday 20 March. Alternatively, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Wednesday 13 March, by emailing me.
This comes shortly after HEFCE published a letter (PDF) which calls for early input to help shape a formal consultation on the role of open access in post-2014 iterations of the Research Excellence Framework. HEFCE will develop the four UK funding bodies’ joint policy and state that they intend to make OA mandatory for submitted outputs. However, they do not intend to state a preference for gold over green open access. One of the questions on which they invite advice is whether it would be feasible to make open access to data a formal requirement too, although they state that while they expect to see progress in this area from REF 2014, they do not expect to make it a formal requirement yet. The deadline for responses to the letter is Monday 25 March. Once again, you can contribute to the Society of Biology sectoral response by Monday 18 March, by emailing me.
Finally, if you’ve made it this far, you may be interested to subscribe to the Society of Biology’s Research Communication Newsletter. The first edition can be found here and to subscribe you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
With discontent still surrounding the imminent transfer of all the Forensic Science Service’s (FSS) work to private providers and the police, one potential (emphasis on potential) silver lining is the extra attention research has been given in the inquiry.
The FSS previously spent £3-4 million per year on research and development, a significant hole which now needs to be filled for the sake of our justice system and competetiveness in this area. Furthermore, commercial forensic service providers have less incentive than the publicly funded FSS to conduct original research, particularly at a time when they need to rapidly expand their scientific services to shoulder the extra work they must now take on. To counter this, there are now growing calls for forensic science research to be incentivised within the public funding framework; by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Research Councils and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB).
In December, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee held an evidence session at which they questioned Professor Bernard Silverman, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Home Office, on this issue. Professor Silverman spoke positively and said that he was undertaking discussions with the three aforementioned funders. With the FSS gone, the Home Office may no longer be seen as the ‘home’ of forensic science research, creating an onus on these three, who receive their funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. And, as Professor Jim Fraser, Director of the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Strathclyde, said in his submission to the original inquiry: “The research councils talk a great deal about the ‘impact of research’. What could be more impactive than criminal justice?”
Whilst the Research Councils will not make forensic science an immediate ‘strategic priority’, Professor Silverman was enthusiastic that they are taking steps to stress the importance of research in this area. Continued political pressure will help them “rise to the challenge” (Silverman) and encourage innovative research in universities, for which they can be rewarded through the Research Excellence Framework.
Whilst it would be foolish to expect all the FSS’ research and development practises to be continued, this may well provide an opportunity for new, innovative and collaborative research to fill this gap.
Also attending the Science and Technology Committee evidence session were James Brokenshire MP (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Prevention) and Andrew Rennison (Forensic Science Regulator). Other items under discussion included the FSS archive and the creation of a new strategic group, which is expected to meet for the first time in April. An uncorrected transcript can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmsctech/uc1698-i/uc169801.htm
This blog post was written by James Lush, the Biochemical Society’s Policy Officer
Professor Stephen Curry, Professor of Structural Biology at Imperial College London and past contributor to The Biochemist recently spoke at the Heads of University Biological Sciences (HUBS) Winter Meeting 2011 about impact within the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014). He has now written up his thoughts for the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine and invites thoughts on his blog, Reciprocal Space.
In the THE article he writes:
“The problems of measuring impact – however widely it is defined – are real, particularly with respect to evidence gathering. As a community, we should be wary of the process becoming a tail that wags the scientific dog. But I think there is no alternative but to engage as constructively as we can with the REF. It will not suffice to bleat at its inevitable flaws. We need to be more sophisticated and realistic when dealing with our political masters, who are the representatives of the public into whose purses we are permitted to dip… If nothing else, it will help us to assemble a fresh pile of stories about the success of UK science. Rightfully, it will also expose us to national problems and priorities that the country expects scientists to address.”
What do you think?