access to research papers in STM journals has always been a controversial topic. When the
focus shifts to humanities research, and to monographs, the temperature rises still further
– as evidenced by this emotionally
post by OA advocate Martin Eve in response to a
British Academy document on the
European OA initiative Plan S.
Image from Edith Hall's new book *|
is open access so contentious? In large part, I think, because although OA
began as a bottom-up revolution it was never widely embraced by researchers.
However, OA advocates managed to persuade governments, funders and institutions that
their colleagues should be compelled to embrace open access. This has seen a
series of ever more stringent OA mandates being imposed on researchers,
increasing the bureaucratic burden on them (amongst other things).
are a particularly contested area because of their length, their narrative form, and the licensing issues that this raises.
has not helped that OA advocates promised open access would reduce the costs of
scholarly communication. In reality, costs have risen.
last point is particularly troublesome in the UK context as OA policies have
been introduced without providing the necessary funding to support them. As a
result, researchers can discover that they have been mandated to make their
work open access but cannot afford to pay the article-processing charge (APC) needed if they want to satisfy the
government’s preference for
has been a challenge even for researchers at wealthy and prestigious
institutions. Last year, for instance, Oxford University library had to inform faculty that its OA fund
had been exhausted and so they should delay submitting to journals until it had
the same time, the bureaucracy surrounding OA compliance has become so complex
that universities have had to recruit legions of support staff to interpret and
manage the escalating number of policies (some of which have proved
contradictory). Indeed, such is the complexity now that even specialist support
staff can struggle to decode the rules.
short, the UK OA policy environment is far too complex, and it is seriously underfunded.
For researchers, this is frustrating and depressing.
one knows this better than Edith Hall, a professor of
Classics at King’s College London. (Full disclosure: Edith and I are
Free for all
the topic of her new book – co-authored with colleague Henry Stead – Hall felt it
really important that it be freely available for anyone to read. The book’s
theme is the historic exclusion of the poor from education in the Greek and
Roman Classics. To not make her work open access, Hall felt, would be an act of
was until recently one of the funding bodies of the umbrella organisation Research
Councils UK (RCUK), which itself
has had an open access policy in place since 2012. RCUK’s role has
now moved to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), which has inherited
both the RCUK policy and the 2014 OA policy of the Higher
Education Council for England (HEFCE). HEFCE manages
and the future funding of Hall’s department depends on her and her colleagues
submitting their work for REF assessment.
other words, Hall’s work is subject to several different OA policies, all of
which were introduced with the aim of making publicly funded research open
only research papers have to be made open access on a mandatory basis today,
but all the UK policies recommend and actively encourage researchers to make
their monographs open access as well. As the Guidance on Submissions for REF
2021 puts it, “The funding
bodies [also] encourage institutions to take a proportionate view of the costs
and benefits of making other types of outputs (including monographs) available
as open access.”
aside, the problem these policies face is that they were introduced on the
assumption that open access would be less costly than traditional methods, or
at least cost neutral. As noted, this has not proved the case. In fact, it was only
after it had introduced its OA policy that RCUK realised it had imposed a significant new cost burden on UK universities. In 2013, therefore, it had to provide additional funding to research-intensive universities like King’s in order for them to comply, in the form of annual block grants to pay for APCs. At
the time, it was assumed that this would only need to be a temporary measure, but the money has had to be paid ever since. (King’s 2019/2020
block grant is £686,560).
to make her work open access, conscious that OA is now a UK priority, and aware
that funding is available to help pay for open access, Hall contacted Research Support at King’s (which
manages the RCUK block grant) to ask if they could contribute to the Book Processing
Charge (BPC) she would need
to pay to make her book OA.
her joy, Research Support replied that they would be happy to fund the full
cost of making the book OA (£10,000). Explaining why they were providing the
money, Research Support cited the RCUK Policy on
Although RCUK’s open access policy does not require mandatory OA for monographs
or books, they said, it does encourage “authors of such material to consider
making them Open Access where possible.”
addition, they said, the RCUK policy states that research organisations “may use
the block grant in the manner they consider will best deliver the RCUK Policy
on Open Access, as long as the primary purpose to support the payment of APCs
that the funding was now in place to make their book OA, Hall and Stead signed
an open access agreement with Routledge/Taylor & Francis (RTF) and began
writing up their research. When the book’s text was finally accepted by RFT Hall
emailed Research Support to ask where the publisher should send its invoice.
Support replied, however, that as too many calls are now being made on the
block grant, they could no longer honour their commitment to pay. When Hall questioned
this change of heart, she was informed that – contrary to what Research Support
had told her at the time she applied for the subvention – it was not actually permitted
to use money from RCUK block grants to pay BPCs.
that if it did not go into production immediately their book would not be
published in time to be eligible for the all-important 2021 REF, Hall and Stead
concluded they had no choice but to ask RTF to rewrite the contract along
traditional lines and accept that their book would not be open access after all.
experience has been demoralising and frustrating. But does it have any wider
significance? I think so.
recall that when the open access movement was founded – at the meeting of the 2002 Budapest
Open Access Initiative (BOAI) – the resulting declaration
stated (inter alia) that:
“Removing access barriers to [the scholarly]
literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of
the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as
useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common
intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.”
This democratic, upbeat vision is a far cry from the expensive, oppressive and bureaucratic environment that surrounds open access in the UK today. And
one can reasonably assume that many other UK researchers have been experiencing
similar frustrations to Hall. This can only alienate them from the practice and
principles of open access, and so delay the transformation to OA the UK government
wants to see.
is, however, a larger and more pressing question we have to ask: Is the open
access strategy currently being pursued in the UK affordable, particularly as the government focuses its attention on monographs?
driven by settled policy rather than financial considerations the UK is now determined
to press ahead and mandate OA for monographs. Last year Steven Hill, Director of
Research at UKRI told The Bookseller
that for REF2027 the current policies on open access as applied to journal
articles would be extended to encompass monographs and other “long form
how much will this cost? How will it be funded? This question has led to some anguished
deliberation, by both publishers and researchers.
2017, for instance, the Pro-Vice Dean Research (Impact and Innovation) at
King’s College, Simon Tanner, published a blog post entitled Gold
is a dead model for Open Access Books. In the post, he said that Book Processing
Charges in a Gold OA environment, “would be utterly unsustainable in a future
OA mandated REF environment.”
reaching this conclusion Tanner calculated that there were 11,861 named
submitters to Panel D (Arts and Humanities) for REF2014, with 8,513 books. He
explained: “So we have 8,513 books submitted to the REF2014 and probably a
similar number to the next one as well. The top 3 most book submitting
universities were University of Oxford (511), University of Cambridge (344) and
King’s College London (245).”
added that BPCs range from between £3,500 to £11,000 per book. As a result, he
said, “The maths don’t look good if these figures continued into a new OA
mandated REF environment. At the lower end (say £3,000 per book) the figures
are scary, at the upper end (say £10,000 per book) the figures are impossible
to sustain or contemplate.”
would mean, he said, that Oxford’s 511 books would cost between £1.5 million
and £5.1 million to submit to the REF, Cambridge’s 344 books would cost between
£1 million and £3.4 million to submit, and King’s 245 books would cost between
£0.7 million and £2.5 million to submit.
Tanner’s estimates are right, and UKRI does introduce an OA monograph mandate, the
UK could face a bill of between £25 and £85 million (using the REF2014 figures).
Others might question these figures, but even OA advocate Martin Eve
acknowledges that there are significant
And this would be on top of the millions of pounds it is already
paying to fund journal APCs, a figure that has increased by over 50% since the
payments began in 2013.
the hope is that universities will be able to turn their journal
licensing contracts with publishers into “transformative
This would see the costs of reading subscription journal content and OA publication
charges combined and (UKRI must hope) obviate the need to continue paying block
this requires the co-operation of publishers and has the potential for being
highly disruptive – as researchers at the University of California have discovered
following their library’s decision to walk away from negotiations
over such an agreement with the world’s largest scholarly publisher Elsevier.
In response, Elsevier has pulled the plug, leaving faculty without access to newly
published papers in thousands of Elsevier journals.
if this strategy eventually proves successful for journals, it is unclear how a
similar transition process would work for monographs. For this reason,
doubtless, UKRI recently awarded £2.2m to a project
intended “to make more, and better, use of open access book publishing”. But is there really time to reinvent the
monograph publishing landscape before REF2027?
model that has gained traction is the so-called crowdfunding solution in which
libraries combine funds to “unlock” books and make them open access. But there
are problems with this model and – as is evident from recent criticism of Knowledge Unlatched (e.g. here, here and here) – there are also
This article draws attention
to some of the problems of the crowdfunding model. It also points out that the
ongoing efforts to agree transformative agreements with journal publishers, the
current focus of UKRI on Plan S, and the large amounts of money already being
sucked from the system by journals, pose a big threat to implementing such a
model. As the authors put it, “Currently, the focus of libraries and research
funders is on journals rather than books. Therefore, Plan S could be a threat
as well as other changes in science policy orientation.”
seems to me that there are two underlying and connected problems here. There is
an abiding assumption that open access can reduce the costs of scholarly
publishing and a continuing desire to press ahead with policy changes without
thinking through the cost implications.
as if OA advocates and funders believed that costs can be magically wished away.
The truth is that costs do not disappear with open access. Moreover, publishers
are not going to willingly lower their prices, and market forces are not
sufficient to force them to do so, if only because STM researchers are always
going to want to publish in prestigious journals and humanities researchers are
always going to want to publish with prestigious imprints.
short, while King’s College clearly failed Hall in her attempts to publish her
new book open access, the larger failing here is a failure of the UK government
and UK funders. They have yet to develop a coherent or sustainable
strategy for moving to an open-access environment, even as they insist on pressing
ahead with new OA policies. This suggests that individuals like Hall can expect
the situation to get worse before it gets better.
there is a little good news to end with: RTF agreed to insert a clause in
the new contract with Hall and Stead to allow their book to made open access
after a three-year embargo, for a reduced BPC (£3,000). And King’s has agreed
to pay the fee. The book will, therefore, become freely available to the public
is a Q&A with Hall. I also sent a list of questions to Research
Support at King’s College on 30th July and, and will publish their answers when I receive them. [These are now below the Q&A with Hall].
The interview begins …
|Edith Hall **|
Can you say what your position is at King’s and your research interests?
EH: I’m a Professor
of Classics at King’s College London. My specialisms are the political and
sociological dimensions of ancient Greek and Roman culture and the continuing
presence and instrumentality of ancient ideas since the Renaissance.
How would you describe your views on open access?
EH: I have always been in principle
committed to the universal availability, in an ideal world, of all scholarly
work, free of charge, to the general public. I was educated entirely at the
British taxpayers’ expense and don’t think they should have to pay commercial
publishers for the results of that education, especially when my research has
been funded by public money. I am unhappy, however, with attempts to impose
mandatory OA on HEIs without proper preparation; the result has been chaos. Moreover, the expenses of publishing simply transferred from reader to author.
You and your colleague Henry Stead have a book in print with Routledge called A
People’s History of Classics. This is the product of an AHRC-funded research project that finished in
2016. Due to the topic of the book, you were very keen to publish it open
access. Can you say why you feel it is important that this book should be
freely available to everyone?
EH: This particular
book is about the historic exclusion of the poor from education in the Greek
and Roman Classics and their struggle to get access to libraries, affordable reading materials, and secondary (let alone tertiary) education. It seems inappropriate that a book about educational
exclusion resulting from poverty should be unavailable to some people who would
be excluded from reading it because of the price-tag attached. It is called A
People’s History of Classics: Class and Greco-Roman Antiquity in Britain
1689-1939. You can read more about the project on this (free-of-charge) website.
Can you say how important the book is to your department for the purposes of REF
2021? Is it double-weighted for instance (that is, it should count as two
outputs rather than one?)
EH: It is not certain
that it will be double-weighted. Double weighting occurs where a publication is
of such clear high quality that it is worth assuming it will get top marks. But
this has yet to be decided by my department. The book is however expected to score very highly in REF 2021.
When does it need to be available in order to be eligible for the REF?
EH: It absolutely
must be published by November 2020 and it would be vastly preferable if it were
to be published in time to receive some reviews and make an impact.
Currently, the REF does not require monographs to be made open access, but (as
the REF Guidance on submissions document puts it) “The funding
bodies encourage institutions to take a proportionate view of the costs and
benefits of making other types of outputs (including monographs) available as
EH: Yes. There is
flexibility I believe.
As I understand it, you asked Research Support at King’s College (part of
King’s Library) if they could help you make the book OA. After checking the
various policies, they said they could fund the whole cost of publication from
the RCUK block grant because your research had been funded by AHRC. They even cited
from the RCUK OA Policy to support that decision.
EH: Yes. I was
thrilled. I did not expect them to offer to pay the full costs of publishing
OA, but they did, and asked that I go back to them as soon as the book’s text was finally and fully accepted for publication. I told my HoD, my colleagues and the public who
follow me on social media and was very impressed by the attitude of King’s
Research Support towards my request and the project.
When the book was ready you went back to them to ask where the publisher should
send the invoice. At that point, you were told that the commitment to pay had
been withdrawn (although no one had contacted you to tell you as much when the decision was made). Can you explain what happened, your understanding of why
the commitment to pay was withdrawn, why you think you were not told that it
had been withdrawn, and what the implications of this subsequent decision were
EH: The offer seems
to have slipped off their radar altogether. The administrator from whom I had
received the emailed commitment had left KCL. I was shocked to be let down like this.
You have a large number of Twitter and Facebook followers, and you regularly
publish a blog. I believe you have made great play of your book being open
access. Is that a problem for you and your co-author?
EH: I have indeed
publicly promised that this will be an OA book to the 190,000+ people who have
read my blogs, the similar number who have accessed the project’s website, the
7,000+ people who follow me on Twitter, and the audiences of radio programmes and at conferences all
over the world, in four continents, to whom I have delivered some of the
results of the research. I am embarrassed that I now must renege
on my public promise.
Evidence suggests that even where open access is mandatory (as it is with
journal articles) it may not always be possible to obtain funding for
publishing charges. In January last year, for instance, Oxford University
researchers were told that the
university’s block grant had run out and that researchers “are therefore asked
to delay submission of new articles to journals”. How practical do you think
open access is if it requires paying to publish in a sector that frequently
faces funding problems?
EH: In the current
chaos, where even specialists in these issues at prestigious universities seem
not to grasp all the issues, OA seems not to be practicable at all unless
individual researchers can afford personally to make four-figure payment to
As noted, it is not currently mandatory to make monographs OA, but UK funders
strongly encourage it and UKRI is reviewing its policy. Indeed, in February
last year Steven Hill, Director of Research at Research England told The Bookseller
that for REF2027 the current policies on open access as applied to journal
articles would be extended to encompass monographs and other “long form
outputs”. Do you think your experience is relevant to this review? If so, what
advice would you give to Research England on this?
EH: My experience is
clearly relevant. Other academics need to be aware that promises of funding of
OA for their books and articles may be withdrawn at any time.
think it is perfectly reasonable for OA to be mandatory (and of course adequate funds to be given to HEIs to cover this) in the case of academic
publications where the research was directly funded by public money, as this
book’s research was funded by the AHRC.
AHRC bought out some of my time from KCL to conduct this research and so it was not
done, for example, as overtime at weekends. Some of my other books are written
in the evenings and at weekends, especially the more ‘popular’, accessible
trade books. So, I do not think that it would be remotely possible for
compulsory OA to apply to every book authored by an academic employed at an
* The image (which will be reproduced on the book’s cover) is the banner of the Fenhall
Drift Lodge, Lanchester, now in custodianship of Lanchester Parish Church and
reproduced courtesy of the Lanchester Parish Council and Durham Miners’
Association. It was made by Tutill of Chesham to designs by Ernie Reay and
George Thomas. See further in the blog post Putting Social Class into the History of Classics,
by Edith Hall
** Image courtesy of Titina Chalmatzi, originally published in an interview with Edith Hall by Tasoula Eptakili for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini
Q&A Response from Helen Cargill, Head of Open Research, Libraries &
Collections, King’s College London
Can you tell me how much money King’s has received in block grant funding since
RCUK began to provide it in 2013?
HC: In the 7 years
since RCUK/UKRI first introduced an OA block grant, King’s has received an
average of c£515,000 RCUK/UKRI open access block grant funding pa, currently
totalling c£3.6M. To put this in context, this equates to c285 article
processing charges pa (averaging £1800 each) for the whole cohort of King’s
authors in receipt of RCUK/UKRI funding.
On July 15th I asked King’s Libraries a question on Twitter about
its block grant spending and whether it had made the data freely available on
the web (as most other universities in receipt of block funding appear to have done).
If it has done so, I asked, could I be given a link to that data? I was
promised an answer in the next day or so. It is now several weeks since then
and I have not had my questions answered. I assume King’s is sending annual
reports on how it is spending the block grant to UKRI. Can you let me have
copies of those reports please?
HC: King’s provides
annual reports to UKRI on how we spend the OA block grant. We will not be
sharing this data more broadly at this time.
When you were head of Research Support at King’s you agreed to a subvention to
allow Edith Hall to make her book A People’s History of Classics open
access. When the money was awarded Hall was cited two paragraphs from the RCUK Policy on
Open Access to justify the decision. When she completed the book
and asked for the publisher to be paid, however, she was told that RCUK does
not allow block grant funds to be used for BPCs. I must assume that both these
interpretations of the RCUK policy cannot be correct, or might it be that it is
possible to pick and choose different parts of the RCUK policy to suit one’s
purpose? If not the latter, is it you that misunderstood the RCUK policy when
you agreed to the subvention or was the subsequent decision not to honour the
commitment a misunderstanding of the policy?
HC: In December 2015
the Research Support team responded to Professor Hall’s request for support in
making her forthcoming monograph OA, advising that we could cover the costs of
the publisher’s OA book processing charge (BPC) from our RCUK OA funds. We
thereby made a soft commitment in the expectation that an invoice would be
were aware that RCUK’s OA policy did and does not apply to monographs or books,
however their guidance notes say that they encourage such outputs to be made OA
and permit research organisations to use the block grant in the manner they
consider will best deliver the RCUK Policy on open access, as long as the
primary purpose to support the payment of publisher open access fees [is fulfilled].
original enquiry was almost 4 years ago. Areas that we would have considered
before replying include: whether this was a reasonable thing for the block
grant to be spent on, what funds were then uncommitted, what our peers in other
UK HEIs were doing. That would have informed our response to Professor Hall.
review, this may not have been the answer that should have been given, it was a
judgement. Having recently spoken with UKRI they clarified they will not allow
their block grant to be used to pay for a book to be made open access.
is because of this and no other reason that when Professor Hall contacted the
team in June 2019 to say that payment would now be required we responded to
advise that unfortunately we would not be able to cover the cost of the BPC
from our RCUK/UKRI funds, but would explore all options to try and assist her
which we did.
did not change its mind about this. Research Support reviewed what was possible
when re-contacted 3 years after being last contacted by Professor Hall, and
advised that unfortunately we were not in a position to use RCUK/UKRI funds as
we’d originally hoped. We have since been able to secure alternative funds to
cover the cost of Professor Hall’s BPC.
Why did Research Support not get back to Edith Hall at the time the initial
decision was overturned to explain that it had been overturned and that King’s
was no longer willing to honour its commitment, rather than wait until the
money was requested, when timing (re the REF) was of the essence, and when it
was too late to request AHRC to fund the BPC, leaving Hall and her co-author no
option but to revert to a traditional all rights reserved contract – despite
Hall having repeatedly promised her thousands of Twitter and blog followers
that the book would be OA, confident in the knowledge that King’s had agreed to
pay the BPC?
HC: There was no decision
taken in the intervening years to overturn our previous soft commitment made to
Professor Hall in December 2015. The number of requests we have and continue to
receive for support with OA funding is in the thousands. We ask researchers to
please keep in touch with us during the publication process so as to ensure
that finances are available. Since Professor Hall’s previous last contact with
us in 2016 we have updated our communications to spell out more clearly that
block grant funds are provided on a first come first served basis and only to
fund journal articles, they are offered as a soft commitment not reserved
indefinitely, with budgets spent annually.
You were at that time the manager of Research Support. I note today that your
title is different to when the commitment to Hall was made. Can you say who
replaced you as manager of Research Support at King’s and when?
HC: No-one has
replaced me as Head of Research Support. My job title recently changed to
become Head of Open Research to reflect a greater commitment to supporting the
open research agenda.
Subsequent to the initial decision to grant the subvention to Edith Hall, Simon
Tanner published a blog post in which he concluded that Book Processing Charges
in a Gold OA environment “would be utterly unsustainable in a future OA
mandated REF environment.” Would I be right to conclude that there has been a
change of policy at King’s over OA monographs and that it is this that led
Research Support to overturn its decision to pay the BPC for Edith Hall’s book?
HC: There is no
King’s policy on OA Monographs.
Or does the withdrawal of Research Support’s commitment rather signal a
difference of opinion or a policy mismatch between King’s Libraries and senior
management over the issue of OA monographs?
HC: This is a
continued misunderstanding. Please see my answers above.
Either way, do you not feel that having agreed to the subvention King’s should
have honoured its commitment? If not, why not?
HC: Wherever possible
we strongly endeavour to meet such commitments. Unfortunately, there are not
currently alternative funds to those provided by UKRI and the Wellcome Trust to
support open access publishing. We were contacted by Professor Hall at the end
of June 2019. By the end of July, we had managed to secure a sum from within
the Library budgets to cover the cost of making her monograph OA.
As you will know, last year the Director of Research at Research England Steven Hill told The Bookseller
that for REF2027 the current policies on open access as applied to journal
articles will be extended to encompass monographs and other “long form
outputs”. And right now, UKRI is conducting a review in order to establish how
this policy decision will be implemented. In light of this it seems inevitable
to me that we are about to move to a world in which monographs are published OA
and I can see no reasonable alternative to their being funded by means of BPCs.
Would you agree? If not, why not?
HC: The question ‘How
should monographs be published Open Access?’ is one that many contributors to
the scholarly publishing world have a view on. There is no short or agreed
answer. Steven Hill makes interesting points. King’s own Professor Simon Tanner
has written widely on the topic.
Would I be right to conclude that senior management at King’s are opposed to
the direction of travel being taken by UKRI over OA monographs? Is it maybe
even resistant to the very notion of OA monographs?
HC: King’s does not
have a position on OA monographs and the direction of travel taken by UKRI in
regard to them.
In his blog post Simon Tanner says that King’s was the third-most prolific
producer of books in terms of submissions to REF2014. How many books is King’s
currently producing each year and how many of these (if any) are being made
available on an OA basis?
HC: Information on
how many monographs are being published annually by King’s authors is
challenging to determine exactly. Approximate numbers in recent years suggest a
figure of c.150 to 200 monographs being published pa. Very few of these are
being published open access.
[RP: It might be useful to provide a little more background and context to this
discussion. Where a scientist will write a paper and then send it to a journal
publisher for consideration, with humanities monographs the author generally
does things the other way round: s/he will propose an idea to a publisher
before writing the book. The publisher will likely then send that proposal (the
book’s topic and how the topic will be dealt with) out for review. Only once
the reviews have been provided, and any recommended changes made to the book
proposal (assuming the publisher is still willing to proceed), will the
author(s) sit down and write the text (of, say, 200,000 words). Sometimes the
completed text will also be sent out for further review before the book is finally cleared for publication.
process takes a lot longer than sending a, say, 5,000-word scientific paper to
a journal and waiting for it to be reviewed and published (which can sometimes happen
within 3 months), especially when the book author(s) is/ are highly research
active and working on several other books and projects simultaneously.
the case of the book we are discussing the text was not finally and fully
accepted for publication until June this year, which is when Hall contacted
Research Support to ask for the promised BPC to be released (on 22nd June). In
its initial response, which was not sent until 12th July, Research Support
replied that three years is a long time in open access and that the demand on RCUK
funds was now significantly higher. (It later
added that it was not in any case permitted to use RCUK funds to pay BPCs). Consequently,
it suggested that the Faculty of Arts and Humanities be asked for money to pay
the BPC. More than a month after Hall made contact (26th July), the Vice Dean
Research said that he could not provide the funds either.
this point, Hall had no option but to go back to the publisher and ask to
revert to a traditional contract. She then negotiated with the publisher an
option that would allow the book to be made OA after three years for a greatly
reduced BPC. When she asked Research Support if they would pay this reduced fee
they agreed. As such, it is not so much that Research Support eventually secured
funds to cover the cost of the BPC, but that it secured a considerably lower
sum in order for the book to be released after a three-year embargo. The book will
not be freely available until 2023.
regard to Research Support having offered a “soft” commitment: when Hall was
informed that the money would be made available to her she was told, “As you
are funded by AHRC we are prepared to fund the whole cost of publication for
your monograph from the RCUK block grant.” There was no indication here that
the commitment would expire at some point in the future, or that it was “soft”
(whatever that might mean). It would have been reasonable for Hall to assume
that at that point the commitment was recorded in some file or document
somewhere indicating that the BPC had been promised to her. It would now seem,
however, that this is not the case and that King’s operates a first come first
served system. More precisely, it sounds like a “first to send an invoice”
system rather than a “first to be granted a subvention” system.
universities have been making data about how they are spending their block
grants freely available on the web (open access) at the same time as they file
the reports to RCUK. Sometimes this is as a spreadsheet, sometimes as a
complete report – e.g. see the information published by St Andrews, Queen’s, Belfast, LSHTM, Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Imperial College, LSE, and Cambridge. This information
could in any case be obtained by means of a Freedom of Information request – so
it seems strange that King’s is withholding it.
King’s open access policy is available
online here, and includes the
statement: “This policy’s requirements apply to research outputs that
constitute journal articles and conference contributions. Its adoption is
encouraged for other types of outputs, including books and book chapters,
digital artefacts, and other types of publications”].