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RCUK embargo rule 'would cause publisher collapse'
01.06.12 | Benedicte Page
Making journals free after a six-month embargo period would lead to libraries cancelling subscriptions, a major fall in publisher revenues, the axeing of large numbers of journals and the collapse of some small publishers, according to a new report prepared for the Association of Learned, Professional and Society Publishers (ASPSP) and the Publishers Association (PA).
Research Councils UK plans to adopt a policy shortly that would stipulate that all papers produced with funding from any of the science research councils must be freely available online within six months of publication.
The measure has already drawn criticism from the PA, which said in March that it would have to oppose the policy because it "takes no account of the role of publishers in scholarly communication, makes no reference to sustainability or the management of peer review, offers no practical policy for funding open access while dictating firm and onerous requirements for mandatory deposit on short embargoes".
Now a paper prepared for the two publisher bodies by research company Gold Leaf has "strongly recommended" that no such mandate should be imposed "until both libraries and publishers have had time to understand the issues better and have together taken steps to explore alternatives to a fully open access publishing model".
The report claimed that science, technical and medical (STM) publishers could expect to retain full subscriptions from 56% of libraries under the new measure, with reduced or no revenues from the remaining 34%, while arts, humanities and social science (AHSS) publishers would only retain full subscriptions from 35% of libraries with reduced or no funding from the remaining 42%. If an across-the-board six-month embargo was imposed, "most publishers would be obliged to review their portfolios and a substantial body of journals, especially in AHSS subjects, would cease or be financially imperiled," the report stated.
The report also said: "almost certainly small publishers of all kinds (commercial, learned society and those with single or only a few journals), especially those who do not engage in other types of publishing (books, online e-book collections, databases, educational software etc) would find it most difficult to accommodate the sudden withdrawal of revenues, and some would undoubtedly cease to exist."