Open Access Week

October 24 - 30, 2022 | Everywhere

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom. It is located in London, with an additional reading room in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.

Dr. Philip Dunshea, Commissioning Editor

As part of Open Access Week, we are running a series on the state of Open Access around the world. Today’s entry comes to us from Philip Dunshea, who looks at Open Access in the United Kingdom.

What is the state of Open Access books in the UK today? What are the key challenges?

In December 2016 the four UK Higher Education Funding Bodies announced a move towards a requirement for OA monographs in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) from 2027 onwards. New publishing routes for OA monographs are being established at a fast rate, with innovative models emerging each year.

There are a number of challenges, including financing models and issues around third-party rights. There is currently much discussion among key stakeholders about how these challenges should be met. Ways to improve the discoverability of OA monographs published in the UK are also sought.

What are the challenges for OA books the future?

Despite high levels of support for OA monographs, the rerouting of existing funds is challenging. Support from university administrators, including librarians, will be vital in the coming years. On a related note, publishers will need to show academics and universities that the many benefits of OA outweigh the costs. This is something that we are already doing, of course.

What would you change first for making OA a reality in the UK?

A single structure or authority to lead OA across the UK would be an enormous help. Several recent OA reports in the UK have highlighted this issue. At present there are many competing sources of information, and this can hamper effective communication between academics and publishers. Lack of confidence can be a problem: no-one is entirely sure what direction we are heading in (see Brexit, below).

What does this year’s theme, “Designing Equitable Foundations for Open Knowledge” mean for your region?

There are significant disparities between the UK’s universities in terms of financial resources, and this will inevitably have consequences for OA. If OA is to be made a requirement for monographs, there will need to be clearly established routes for all academics to access it.

How will Brexit affect Open Access if at all?

It is probably safe to say that not many academics, librarians, university officials or publishers are looking forward to March 2019! There are considerable uncertainties about how Brexit will affect research funding, and this will inevitably have an impact on resources for OA. Collaboration between UK and EU-27 universities may also be more difficult; OA partnerships across a ‘hard’ border, without legal harmony, may find new challenges. Nevertheless, one thing is guaranteed: UK universities will have to continue along the OA path, since it is increasingly accepted as a vital goal of global research.

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