Statement on position in relation to open access

An open letter from the editors of 21 UK history journals.

We, as editors of the History journals listed below, would like to make our views clear in relation to the government’s planned implementation (in conjunction with RCUK and HEFCE) of the Finch Report. We fully support initiatives to make scholarship as widely and freely available as possible, above all online. However, we have serious concerns about several aspects of the proposed implementation of the policy, which we believe will have a serious effect on the reputation of UK scholarship internationally, on peer review, and on the rights of authors.

Background: The Finch report proposed that academic journals in the UK should move to a ‘gold’ open access policy wherever possible. The government wants all RCUK funded and all QR funded scholarship to be published ‘gold’ insofar as funding allows. This would mean that an author (through their university) would pay an ‘article processing charge’ (APC) to the journal and the article would be available free on line immediately on publication.

The government also envisages ‘green’ open access publication. This means that no fee is paid by the author to a journal. Instead, the article must be made freely available on line after an embargo period. If gold access is not offered by the journal, that period could be as little as 6 to 12 months. In the case of humanities, the government is prepared to accept a longer period, perhaps around 2 years, particularly if the journal concerned also offers gold open access.

Our position:

1. We want first to make it clear that we will accept gold APCs.  We have a responsibility to the UK research community. Many authors will be required to be published in ‘compliant’ journals which allow the possibility of ‘gold’ publication, and it is vital that all authors be able to publish in the journals of their choice.

2. We will also offer the possibility of ‘green’ publication, ie where an author does not pay an APC, and there is a period of embargo after publication, and subscriptions are charged. The period of embargo we will offer will be 36 MONTHS. We think this is the shortest possible period that would still protect our viability as subscription-funded organisations, which have to pay for copyediting and the management of peer review, and is fully consistent with the need to make research publicly available.

3. We wish to underline that all our decisions about publication will be taken regardless of whether an author is able to pay an APC or not. The quality of the work will be the ONLY criterion for publication.

4. The licence that we will offer for publication in EITHER green OR gold will be a CCBY NC ND (creative commons non-commercial non-derivative) licence only; that is, it will not allow commercial reuse, or tweaking or reuse of parts of an article (text mining). The government has specified that ‘gold’ access is to be given on a CCBY licence, the most permissive form of creative commons licence that there is. This however means that commercial re-use, plagiarism, and republication of an author’s work will be possible, subject to the author being ‘credited’ (but it is not clear in what way they would be credited). We believe that this is a serious infringement of intellectual property rights and we do not want our authors to have to sign away their rights in order to publish with us.

Editors

Past & Present

English Historical Review

Historical Journal

Economic History Review

First World War Studies

French History

German History

European History Quarterly

Global History

Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Cultural and Social History

Renaissance Studies

Urban History

Gender & History

Historical Research

Parliamentary History

Rural History

Royal Musical Association

Contemporary European History

History Workshop Journal

Journal of Scottish Historical Studies

10 Dec 2012