The Business, Innovation and Skills select committee has criticised the government's preference for gold open access publishing over the five-year transition period to open access.
The BIS committee has issued a report after examining the conclusions of the Finch Review, and speaking with over 100 representatives of the publishing, higher education and research communities.
The BIS report, released this morning (10th September), said the government should allow green open access during the five-year transition period to full open access, instead of stating a preference for gold.
It also criticised the VAT levied on digital journals in comparison to the VAT-free print versions, saying that the government should work harder to lobby the European Commission to reduce the VAT levied on digital journals.
Adrian Bailey, chair of the BIS committee, said: “In a fully open access world, the benefits of gold open access may well outweigh those of green open access. We are not yet in an open access world, however, and the key to the success of open access policy is how we get there.
“The government and RCUK have given insufficient consideration to the transitional period and the vital role of the green route. The evidence suggests that the cost of unilaterally adopting gold open access during a transition period are much higher than those of Green open access."
Bailey, a Labour MP for West Bromwich, criticised the policy for putting more financial burden on universities at a time they are already under considerable financial pressure. “It is unacceptable that the government has issued an open access policy that will require considerable subsidy from research budgets in order to both maintain journal subscriptions and cover article processing charges,” he said.
The report also criticised the VAT levied on digital journals in comparison to the VAT-free print versions, saying the government should work harder to lobby for a reduction to the level of VAT levied on e-journals. Bailey said: “The fact that VAT currently applies to e-journals but not to print journals creates a clear disincentive for online access. The government does not consider it worthwhile to pursue a reduction in VAT with the European Commission. We disagree and urge it to do more.”
VAT on e-journals in the UK is 20%, whereas print editions are VAT-free.
The BIS report also criticised non-disclosure clauses in publishers’ contracts with academic libraries over payment levels for e-journal subscriptions where they concern the use of public funds. If the clauses persist, the government should refer the matter to the Competition Commission, the committee said. “Non-disclosure clauses severely limit the negotiating power of universities over subscriptions costs. If dialogue does not resolve the problem, the Government should refer the matter to the Competition Commission,” Bailey said.
The full report can be read on the BIS website.