Publishers 'need to standardise OA policies'

Publishers 'need to standardise OA policies'

Publishers need to standardise their Open Access publishing policies to reduce confusion among authors, while steps such as aggregated billing for Article Processing Charges could help with the administrative burden, according to a newly released report from the Copyright Clearance Centre. 

The urgent need to develop proper infrastructure to support OA publishing is revealed by "Making Open Access Work for Authors, Institutions and Publishers". The report derives from a roundtable conducted in the autumn, with delegates including representatives from Nature Publishing Group, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the British Medical Journal, JISC and the universities of Kent, Huddersfield, Glasgow and St Andrews.

Academics said they were frustrated at the number of different publisher policies they had to contend with, while both authors and institutions were said to struggle with a complex and changing set of funder mandates. A shift from the old model of a two-way relationship between author and publisher, to a three or four-way relationship involving the institution and sometimes an external funder, is called for, the roundtable agreed, with publishers also asked to standardise their policies to help authors and institutions.

Few participants thought the workflow of managing Article Processing Charges (APCs), the charges made to fund articles published via open access, was working smoothly. The report found the new workflow "typically involves multiple points of interaction among authors, institutions and publishers" and efforts to establish stable patterns were "frequently upset by new developments in the external environment." Publishers need to forge new internal relationships, with production and editorial teams developing much stronger links with their finance departments, to aid this, the report found.

For institutions, there are difficulties in managing compliance with research funders such as Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust, who both require articles to be made available under a Creative Commons CC BY license when an APC is paid. This is because authors themselves often show "low levels" of awareness about the issue. The roundtable recommended that funders should communicate their mandates more effectively while institutions should offer "simple, clear messaging" to authors.

Meanwhile the labour-intensive administrative burden of managing and billing for APCs was also considered, with publishers recommended to offer aggregated billing and prepayments options, while keeping "granular reporting" so that transparency was preserved.

"We should work towards simplifying and standardising processes to move towards a sustainable and scalable OA ecosystem which preserves academic freedom and author choice in publishing and makes the research as valuable as possible for the end user," said the report.