What has changed in the guidance for the RCUK Policy on Open Access?

Yesterday afternoon we published the latest version of the guidance for the revised RCUK policy on Open Access.  This version incorporates all of the comments that we received from the short call for input that we ran during March, asking for comments on where the guidance needed to be further clarified.  For all but the eagle eyed, it might be difficult to see where the changes have been made so this blog post is to provide a very brief overview of what the changes are.

Probably the biggest addition is the creation of a separate Frequently Asked Questions document.  As I was analysing the comments that we received, it quickly became obvious that a lot of the points people were making were questions of detail that would be difficult to weave in to the guidance.  The FAQ allows these questions to be clearly asked in a way that we hope will be helpful to others.  It is our intention to continue to update this as other questions are raised. We will make clear in the document what these additions (or changes) are..

One of the most high profile additions to the guidance that we were asked for was, through Stephen Curry’s blog and subsequent letter, clarification that journal impact factors are not taken in to account when the Research Councils make funding decisions.  A statement to this effect has been added to the “Key Points to Note” section.

Throughout all of our communications around the revised RCUK policy we have tried to be clear that the policy supports a mixed approach to Open Access and it really is down to the author and their research organisation where they publish.  This message is one that does not seem to have been clearly communicated and, once again, we have tried to clarify this in both the guidance document and the FAQ.

We have tried to describe more about the shape of the review in 2014, and confirm that there will be subsequent reviews as needed, but likely to be 2016 and 2018.  As we are early in the thinking around the review, it is difficult for us to put down concrete details; indeed we may have suggestions from stakeholders we are continuing to work with, as the policy is implemented. However, we have added some of the issues suggested to the list we already had for areas for the review to focus on, including those highlighted by the House of Lords S&T Committee.  We also agree that the review should be as independent as possible and include representation from the various stakeholder groups.  We will take this forward as the review is planned.

Another section that we have tried to strengthen and expand is section 3.14.  Previously this had focussed purely on monitoring but it has now been renamed to reflect the fact that, in the initial stages at least, it is more likely to be focussed on collecting evidence for the 2014 review.  We have tried to give as much detail as possible in this section around the sort of information we envisage we will need to collect; however, as the project we are conducting with RIN around best practice will also look at the best ways that we can collect these data, we don’t want to pre-empt the suggestions that come from that.

Many of the other changes have been to tighten up the language and phraseology used within the document for clarity.  We have also, hopefully, ironed out some of the inconsistencies in the document that had crept in during drafting.  We really are very grateful to those who spent time going through the document and for the constructive comments that were submitted.  They were very helpful and we have tried to incorporate as many as possible.  There were some comments that referred to fundamental aspects of the policy itself which we will continue to discuss with the various stakeholder groups and will be reflected on during next year’s review.  The FAQ will continue to develop as further questions are asked and, if there are things that are still unclear, then I would encourage you to get in contact so that we can help.