The Research Councils UK (RCUK) has just announced that they will be releasing funds to the University sector so that next year 45% of papers can be published using Gold Open Access, 53% the year after, increasing to 75% by 2017. The basic idea behind Gold Open Access is that the authors pay a fee to the publishers so that the published paper is accessible by anyone, even those without a subscription. The funding released amounts to £17 million next year, £20 million the year after and then “as yet to be determined amounts” in the following years. Given that £20 million is expected to cover 53% of the papers published in 2014, presumably it has to increase to about £30 million by 2017.
The telescoper has already written extensively and succinctly about this in the past and has already pointed out that the “RCUK is throwing money down a gold-plated drain”. Although I agree with most (if not all) of the criticism of Gold Open Access, there is one very basic thing that confuses me. I assumed that the point behind Gold Open Access was that the authors would pay the publication costs upfront and hence the papers could be accessed without a subscription. Although the RCUK press release discusses the funding that will be given to Universities to pay for Gold Open access, there is no mention of what happens regarding the subscription costs. We will be spending £17 million next year so that 43% of the papers published in the UK will be published through Gold Open Access. These papers will be accessible by anyone, but University libraries will presumably need to pay subscription fees so as to access those papers not published under Gold Open Access. Will these fees be reduced accordingly? I suspect not and so we will essentially be throwing an extra £17 million at the Journal publishing industry, an industry that already makes significant profits without the help of Gold Open Access. Just what we need in these straightened financial times.