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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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It seems that 2012 really was the “tipping point” for Open Access, especially in the UK. The Finch Report has mandated OA for RCUK-funded projects and the implementation phase is now hastily underway. No longer can Open Access be seen as a minority issue; it's here and it's here to stay.

As one struggle ends, another begins though, like a grim phoenix rising from the ashes. The model that Finch has introduced (and the one that is most profitable for publishers) is Article Processing Charges (APCs). This has prompted a panic among certain segments of the research community. Early Career Researchers (ECRs) and those in less “research-intensive” institutions feel, quite rightly, that they are being shut out. This seems especially so when it is considered that APCs could come to thousands of pounds for a single article. If an institution or individual does not have the funding – and in the humanities this will be broadly the case – will they be denied the right to publish?

As I've written on several occasions before, the problem that drives this model is the implementation of assessment models such as REF, which are deployed as blunt tools through which to discipline the research community and to ensure the flourishing of the publication market. If sections of our community are to be shut out, then we need a new paradigm of prestige so that small, scholar-run, highly specialised journals can be valued for their niche and seen as a way of avoiding the pitfalls of REF.

This is the new struggle: countering top-loading of funding and the streaming of our institutions further into Research vs. Teaching universities. This will only be achieved by ensuring that APCs do not exclude.

As somebody who operates in the spirit of “make cool stuff happen”, I will be fighting against APCs by ensuring that they never touch my projects, Orbit, Excursions and Alluvium. I will continue to work on these, lending my expertise, with no up-front costs for authors or readers, on the basis that I want an open field. If I fund this out of my own salary, I will do so. If an institution wants to be on the right side of history, I will accept their help!

As we open up our research to readers, we must ensure that we don't close it down to researchers. We must narrow prestige to the article level. We must ensure that publishers really compete and earn based on the value they add, rather than tradition. We must remember: openness shuns exclusion. APCs introduce exclusion, but not at the end of the process that we, in thinking about OA, usually consider.