Under the scheme, research papers that describe work paid for by the British taxpayer will be free online for universities, companies and individuals to use for any purpose, wherever they are in the world.So research literature is now free? Not so fast.
In an interview with the Guardian before Monday’s announcement David Willetts, the universities and science minister, said he expected a full transformation to the open approach over the next two years.
British universities now pay around £200m a year in subscription fees to journal publishers, but under the new scheme, authors will pay “article processing charges” (APCs) to have their papers peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online. The typical APC is around £2,000 per article.The Finch scheme is designed to protect the revenue stream of academic journals. It simply shifts the burden from university libraries to university researchers.
The Finch report strongly recommended so-called “gold” open access, which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science budgets. One alternative favoured by many academics, called “green” open access, allows researchers to make their papers freely available online after they have been accepted by journals. It is likely this would be fatal for publishers and also Britain’s learned societies, which survive through selling journal subscriptions.Cost shifting to researchers would be justifiable if the for profit publishing industry actually added any value to the end product. But it doesn't. Editorial vetting is done by unpaid scholars blind reviewing submissions. Authors provide formatted and copy edited final mansucripts. What do the journals do? They collect money.