What to Make of the Finch Report?

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[Listen to Fabiana Kubke talk about open access in her Nethui interview with bFM]
For advocates of open access, it’s been a busy few months. On May 17, the EU released plans to make  €80 billion of research from their Horizon2020 programme publicly available. On June 19, the White House petition for open access hit 25 000 signatures, mandating a response from President Barack Obama. On June 18, Dame Janet Finch released her team’s report into open access publishing in the UK, concluding that the arguments for open access to publicly funded research are “compelling… and fundamentally unanswerable.”
From the outside, it appears that the move to open access is inevitable. But, as Cameron Neylon says in his mostly positive response to Finch Report, it all depends on what you mean by ‘open.’
The Finch Report has been criticised for recommending the so-called ‘gold’ model, whereby researchers pay existing publishers to make their research publicly accessible. The report’s authors estimate that this would cost research funders between £50-60 million pounds a year. In the competing model, known as ‘green’ open access, researchers deposit a version of their work in institutional repositories.
Against the green model, the authors of the Finch Report argue that repositories cannot act as publishers. They also argue that the existing system of green OA – whereby researchers have the choice of whether or not to deposit their research in repositories – isn’t working, as only a fraction of researchers have ever participated.
British publishers Elsevier, of the Elsevier boycott fame, have welcomed the report, joining several publishers’ associations. For the report’s critics, this is hardly surprising: gold open access promises to maintain the large profit margins enjoyed by the major scholarly publishing companies, which are often well over 30%. For Elsevier, this equated to profits of £768 million in 2011.
In New Zealand, a degree of open access already exists. The NZResearch database, hosted by the National Library, links to thousands of papers and dissertations available in New Zealand’s institutional repositories. Otago Polytechnic has also given its support to free and open access to research.
But it remains the case that most publicly funded research in New Zealand is not publicly available. While the movement for open access is clearly gaining steam, it’s still not clear what kind of ‘open’ future New Zealand researchers will enjoy.
We’ll be talking about all this and much more in Thursday night’s Creative Commons Meetup. What are your thoughts? What’s the way forward for the New Zealand open access movement? Join the discussion below, send us an email or tweet your comments, and we’ll bring it up on the night.
[Update: The Guardian reports that the British government plans to implement the recommendations of the Finch report, including the Gold open access model, by 2014]

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