A proposed new Open Access (OA) policy from funding body UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) could see UK universities and journals take a huge financial hit, a new report for the Publishers Association warns.
The policy, broadly aligned with the principles of Plan S and currently being finalised before publication, includes the proposal that peer-reviewed research articles acknowledging funding from UKRI should be made accessible immediately on publication, without an embargo, free of charge and under a licence that maximises the opportunity for re-use. It also places new restrictions on book chapters, edited collections and monographs, which must be made available to view and download for free within 12 months of publication in their final, published format.
However, the policy means UK-based journals could also be faced with a £2bn loss over the period 2022 to 2027 and an associated loss of economic output of £3.2bn, according to a report by FTI Consulting for the Publishers Association. For some, monograph publishing will become unsustainable while some smaller publishers may be put out of business.
According to the document, it may mean an increase in expenditure for research-intensive universities in the UK of £130m to £140m a year, if a significant number of journals were to go fully OA. The 20 most research-intensive universities would have to cover around half of the anticipated increase in publication costs.
The report also suggests the policy will have a detrimental effect on UK research competitiveness and the UK’s attractiveness as a global hub for research.
A significant proportion of the loss to UK-based journals would represent the loss of export revenue, with foreign entities also to gain the most financially from the UK transition as there would be a substantial “first-mover” disadvantage for the UK, it states.
Meanwhile, libraries would still need to subscribe to content not currently available on an OA basis while the policy would inhibit scholars' ability to conduct their research, the report warns.
Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, commented: “Publishers want to make Open Access a reality and have done a huge amount to contribute to the Open Science agenda. However, this report raises serious questions for everyone in the UK research sector to consider. UKRI’s proposed policy requires detailed scrutiny as the potential economic impact is significant and severe. We hope that this report makes a valuable contribution to the body of evidence informing this important policy.”