Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

An OA mandate for University College London

University College London has adopted an OA mandate.  From today's announcement:

UCL (University College London) has today announced the establishment of a UCL Publications Board that will implement the university’s Open Access policy and be responsible for ensuring that, subject to copyright permissions, all UCL research is placed online in the university’s institutional repository, freely accessible to all. This move places UCL at the forefront of academic institutions who are pioneering the move to Open Access, as the first European university ranked in the global top ten in the THE – QS world university rankings to do so.

UCL has already given all of its PhD students the option of making their theses available in its online repository, open access, giving these far greater visibility than they would enjoy as paper copy on library shelves. In academic departments across UCL there is already a broad take-up of Open Access, and the records of the whole of UCL’s 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) return have been loaded into the repository, with links added to the relevant version of the full text where copyright permissions allow. The creation of the UCL Publications Board extends this situation to the whole of UCL’s published research output. The Publications Board will oversee the rollout of UCL’s Open Access mandate, and promote Open Access both within UCL and beyond as an important scholarly medium for the dissemination of research.

Open Access is a new form of dissemination for published books, articles, conference proceedings and digital outputs. Its principles are based on the Berlin Declaration, which urges authors to retain the rights in the materials they produce and to place a copy in an Open Access medium – in UCL’s case the university’s electronic repository – so that they are available free at point of use to anyone, anywhere in the world, with an Internet connection.

“In the competitive environment of a global higher education market, Open Access repositories provide a platform on which a university can showcase its research,” says Dr Paul Ayris, Director of UCL Library Services. “Open Access helps prospective students make a judgement on which University to choose, shares blue-skies research with the widest possible audience, and supports outreach activity to open up higher education to new communities....


  • I applaud UCL for this move and look forward to the policy details.  From this announcement, UCL seems to have left a loophole for publishers (ensuring OA "subject to copyright permissions") rather than closing the loophole, Harvard-style, by blocking opt-outs for publishers and opening opt-outs for authors.  More later.
  • As you can see from yesterday's SOAN, I'm collecting university OA policies adopted by faculty votes, especially unanimous faculty votes.  Does anyone know whether the UCL policy was adopted by a faculty vote and, if so, what was the final tally?

Update.  Also see David Turner's article in the Financial Times, quoting this irrelevant objection:

...[S]ome experts say using journals boosts efficiency by signalling to readers whether research is good or not.

Martin Weale, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said: “If you read something in the American Economic Review, there’s a presumption that its quality has been examined with great care, and the article isn’t rubbish. But if you have open access, people who are looking for things ... will find it very difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff.”

Weale seems to believe that the purpose of OA is to bypass peer review, that UCL will only provide OA to unrefereed preprints, or even that UCL will promote repository deposits as an alternative to journal publication.  Turner is the journalist here but failed to report that Weale was misinformed.

Update.  Also see Richard Van Noorden's article in Nature News.  He reports that "UCL's decision [was] approved by a unanimous vote of its academic board in October 2008."  Added to those I listed in SOAN yesterday, that makes 20 faculty-adopted OA policies and 13 unanimous faculty votes:  65% of all faculty-adopted policies have been adopted unanimously.

More from Van Noorden:

..."Open-access mandates [from institutions, departments and funding bodies] have almost doubled globally in the year that has elapsed since Harvard's mandate in [February] 2008," says Stevan Harnad, an advocate of open access at the University of Southampton, UK.

UCL's move is unlikely to improve public access to scientific research papers, as national bodies that support research already demand that. Thirty-six of them — including the US National Institutes of Health, all seven UK research councils, and the European Research Council — require work they have financed to be made publicly available (usually through deposition in open-access repositories such as PubMed Central, six months after publication).

But Alma Swan, a consultant for Key Perspectives, which analyses scholarly communications, says the recent flurry of institutional activity has come because university officials are realizing the importance of increasing their institution's visibility on the internet, and of creating a complete record that can be analysed and compared against other institutions' outputs or easily entered in national funding competitions. The UK and Australia, which both allocate funding depending on the quality of published research, lead the world in open-access repository policies, Swan notes.

"A lot of other UK universities are also considering their policies. We're going to start to see the dominoes fall," she says....

The UCL policy is unlikely to immediately affect publishers, thinks Peter Suber, director of the Open Access project at the Washington DC–based non-profit lobby group Public Knowledge. "Publishers who don't want to allow open access on UCL's terms won't have to," he says, as it seems UCL will defer to publishers' copyright policies....

Update.  Also see the U of Southampton press release:

With the announcement today (Wednesday 3 June) that University College London has just adopted the UK's 22nd (and the world's 84th) mandate to make all of its research output Open Access..., it is clear that the United Kingdom continues to lead the world in Open Access.

With its 13 funder mandates and 9 institutional/departmental mandates so far, the UK still has the planet's highest proportion of Open Access Mandates. But the rest of the world is catching up (see Figure).

Dr Alma Swan of Key Perspectives and University of Southampton, has just documented how mandates to provide Open Access to research output have almost doubled globally in the year that has elapsed since Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted the world’s 44th Open Access mandate in May 2008....

Professor Stevan Harnad, leader and archivangelist for the world-wide Open Access movement, and a Professor in the School of Electronics and Computer Science, comments: 'Alma Swan's analysis shows that the UK is at last going to lose its lead, as the global growth spurt of mandates we had all been awaiting appears to have begun.

'The globalization of Open Access mandates is of course something that all UK universities heartily welcome as a win/win outcome, optimal and inevitable for research and researchers worldwide.

'Open access is essentially reciprocal. The only way every university on the planet can gain open access to the research output of every other university on the planet is by each providing open access to its own research output.’

Update (6/4/09). Also see Zoë Corbyn's article in THES.