Earlier this week HEFCE updated their Open Access policy. It had been expected that the time frame for deposit to a repository would shift from 3 months of first online publication to 3 months of acceptance from 1st April 2017 – this has been postponed. The policy has been updated to state:
“To take account of the need for systems to be developed to support deposit-on-acceptance, during the first two years of the policy (1 April 2016 – 1 April 2018), outputs can be deposited up to three months after the date of publication. This flexibility will be subject to a review of the readiness of systems within the sector in autumn 2017.”
Updated HEFCE Open Access Policy.
This uncertainty about the time frames of deposit to a repository is worth reflection. Firstly, it causes continuing problems in administering a policy that has shifted from its initial 3 months from acceptance, to 3 months from publication until April 2017, to, now, 3 months from publication until April 2018, subject to review...
Secondly, this delay highlights another problem with the policy – and it’s not just about having the appropriate systems in place! Where no embargo has been stipulated by the publisher, “deposit at point of acceptance” will often mean making the paper available in a repository before it is made available via the publisher platform. Now this may well be the intention of the policy, but it’s a cause for concern for both authors and publishers who don’t operate in a Preprint culture.
Given the increasing number of papers in the UK being deposited in institutional repositories I’m unsure how publishers who don’t currently require an embargo will react. One course of action for publishers would be to simply establish new embargo periods where previously there weren’t any. But Green Open Access with long embargo periods isn’t really Open Access! The risk is “deposit at point of acceptance” may provoke a response that undermines the Green Open Access route the policy attempts to exploit.