Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, December 12, 2008

TA publishers allow free online access for the RAE

Deal streamlines article access for research assessors, Research Information, December 11, 2008.  Excerpt:

Assessors in the UK's latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) have had fee-waived access to 150,000 journal articles, thanks to a deal agreed with the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS).

The idea behind the agreement was to simplify the process - instead of participating institutions being required to submit print copies of their papers they could simply submit the Digital Object Identifier (DOIs) of selected journal articles to the RAE team.

The RAE team could then use the CrossRef database to link to the journal article on the publisher site and a specially-created Athens account handled authentication. PLS, which represents publishers’ collective licensing interests, brokered a deal to allow fee-waivers and direct access to publisher content. PLS also co-ordinated the project on behalf of around 2000 publishers.

Ed Hughes, RAE manager, said: ‘We would like to thank publishers for not only agreeing to a licence solution for the RAE, but also for allowing our expert review panels direct access to their content.  We wanted to make it easier for submitting HEIs to provide material to the panel electronically and we needed to simplify access for our 1100 panel members.  These arrangements have allowed us to accomplish the RAE in a more efficient way, and has eased the burden on both submitting institutions and panels.  I’m delighted that publishers and HEFCE were able to collaborate effectively on this vital project.’

Comment.  If it works, OK.  But a simpler, cheaper, and more useful solution would be OA for each of the papers in question.  The free online access would cover every user and every purpose, it wouldn't require negotiating with 2,000 publishers, and it would develop habits of OA archiving that would accelerate research in every field.  The PLS system may be a simplification compared to the mass submission of hardcopy articles.  But it's very complex compared to the submission of URLs to OA copies on deposit in institutional repositories.