"[O]ne of the more interesting but less celebrated events in the history of OA is surely the 2004 Inquiry into scientific publication conducted by the UK House of Commons Science & Technology Committee. The inquiry seems particularly noteworthy in the wake of this year’s controversial Finch Report, and the new OA policy that Research Councils UK (RCUK) announced in response." [Richard Poynder Interview with Ian Gibson]
Richard Poynder has written another brilliant (and timely) OA whodunnit interview!
Yet the plot thickens, with the mystery of the outcome of the 2004 UK Select Committee deliberations still not altogether dispelled.
Ian Gibson is clearly brilliant, and his heart is clearly in the right place. But although his 2004 Gibson Committee Report clearly had (and continues to have) enormous (positive) ramifications for OA worldwide, Ian himself just as clearly does not fully grasp those ramifications!
Journal and Author Selectivity. Ian still thinks that OA is about somehow weaning authors from their preferred highly selective journals (such as Nature), even though the cost-free Green OA that his own Report recommended mandating does not require authors to give up their preferred journals, thereby mooting this issue (and even though the ominous new prospect of double-paying publishers for hybrid Gold OA out of shrinking research funds favoured by the Finch Committee Report does not require authors to give up their preferred journals either).
Research access, assessment and affordability are being conflated here. Green OA does not solve the affordability problem directly, but it sure makes it much less of a life/death matter (since everyone has Green access, whether or not they can afford subscription access). And of course that in turn makes subscription cancelations, publisher cost-cutting, downsizing and conversion to Gold much more likely -- while also releasing the institutional subscription cancelation windfall savings to pay the much lower post-Green Gold OA cost many times over. This leaves journals' peer-review standards and selectivity up to the peers -- and journal choice up to the authors -- where both belong.
Giving up authors' preferred journals in favour of pure Gold OA journals was what (I think) BMC's Vitek Tracz and Jan Velterop had been lobbying for at the time (and that is not what the Gibson Report ended up recommending)!
Emily Commander. So I think if you really want to get to the heart of the mystery of how the Gibson Report crystallized into the epochal recommendation for all UK universities and funders to mandate Green OA you will have to dig deeper, Richard, and interview its author, Emily Commander, who -- as Ian indicates -- was the one who crafted the text out of the cacophony of conflicting testimonials.
Don't ask Emily about the bulk of the report, which is largely just ballast, but about how she arrived at its revolutionary core recommendation (highlighted in boldface below). That's what this is all about...
Select Committee on Science and Technology
Academic libraries are struggling to purchase subscriptions to all the journal titles needed by their users. This is due both to the high and increasing journal prices imposed by commercial publishers and the inadequacy of library budgets to meet the demands placed upon them by a system supporting an ever increasing volume of research. Whilst there are a number of measures that can be taken by publishers, libraries and academics to improve the provision of scientific publications, a Government strategy is urgently needed.
This Report recommends that all UK higher education institutions establish institutional repositories on which their published output can be stored and from which it can be read, free of charge, online. It also recommends that Research Councils and other Government funders mandate their funded researchers to deposit a copy of all of their articles in this way.The Government will need to appoint a central body to oversee the implementation of the repositories; to help with networking; and to ensure compliance with the technical standards needed to provide maximum functionality. Set-up and running costs are relatively low, making institutional repositories a cost-effective way of improving access to scientific publications.
Institutional repositories will help to improve access to journals but a more radical solution may be required in the long term. Early indications suggest that the author-pays publishing model could be viable. We remain unconvinced by many of the arguments mounted against it. Nonetheless, this Report concludes that further experimentation is necessary, particularly to establish the impact that a change of publishing models would have on learned societies and in respect of the "free rider" problem. In order to encourage such experimentation the Report recommends that the Research Councils each establish a fund to which their funded researchers can apply should they wish to pay to publish. The UK Government has failed to respond to issues surrounding scientific publications in a coherent manner and we are not convinced that it would be ready to deal with any changes to the publishing process. The Report recommends that Government formulate a strategy for future action as a matter of urgency.
The preservation of digital material is an expensive process that poses a significant technical challenge. This Report recommends that the British Library receives sufficient funding to enable it to carry out this work. It also recommends that work on new regulations for the legal deposit of non-print publications begins immediately. Failure to take these steps would result in a substantial breach in the intellectual record of the UK.
The market for scientific publications is international. The UK cannot act alone. For this reason we recommended that the UK Government act as a proponent for change on the international stage and lead by example. This will ultimately benefit researchers across the globe.