Friend of Open Access

Frederick Friend Recent Publications/Presentations/Bio

Site Administrator recent publications


17 October 2013 LSE "Impact of social sciences blog"




Open access to publicly-funded research journal articles has been growing steadily across the world over the past ten years, and the value of unrestricted use and re-use of research results to current and future researchers is widely acknowledged. Independent journalist Richard Poynder has charted both the progress in adopting open access and “what more needs to be done” in a series of interviews available at . Surely the steady progress towards full open access would continue, with increasing awareness of the value of open access and an increasing number of university and funder policies requiring researchers to make their publications available on open access? We had not reckoned with the support for a particular route to open access from the UK Minister for Universities and Science, support which threatens to undermine the good progress to date.


Good intentions; poor judgement.


The problem for open access developments in the UK is that Rt Hon David Willetts MP stepped into the steady progress that was being made with ready-made views of his own about how open access should develop, outlining those views to the Publishers Association on 2 May 2012[1]. A few months earlier he had set up a group to consider the way in which open access should be implemented, the membership of the group chosen carefully to reflect the Minister’s priorities of protecting the UK publishing industry and the large learned societies with publishing interests. Surprise, surprise: the report of the Finch Group[2] followed the Minister’s own stated views very closely. No doubt the Minister expected nothing but praise for the Finch recommendations and less than one month after the publication of the Finch Report announced the Government’s acceptance of the main recommendations. A wise Minister would perhaps have waited to see if some differing views might be expressed, for as soon as the new policy was announced, the e-mail lists and blogs were full of critical comments.


Perverse effects 


The UK academic community is now living with the perverse effects of the Finch Report, the Ministerial statement accepting the Finch recommendations and their subsequent application in the Research Councils’ policy on open access. The key policy change recommended by Finch and accepted by the Minister was that “a clear policy direction should be set towards support for publication in open access or hybrid journals, funded by APCs, as the main vehicle for the publication of research”. The effect of this hasty decision has been to

·         divert more taxpayer funds into the publishing industry, reinforcing the already considerable profits made from the sale to libraries of journal subscriptions;

·         fail to develop the valuable service being offered by university repositories for access to the work of a university’s own researchers;

·         leave the UK out-of step with open access policies in every other country in the world, where even-handed policies between journal access and repository access to research reports are commonplace;

·         oblige universities to find additional funds for payments to publishers to meet the shortfall in the extra taxpayer funding provided by the Government for this policy;

·         oblige RCUK to change its previous even-handed open access policy in favour of publication in open access journals;

·         distort the UK publishing market in favour of APC-funded open access journals at the expense of subscription journals or open access journals not requiring the payment of an APC by only funding open access journals;

·         fail to help those small societies struggling to maintain their own journals in a market dominated by multinational commercial publishers;

·         encourage publishers to introduce longer embargoes before researchers can see repository versions of journal articles; and

·         force upon researchers in all disciplines a policy which had been developed within the biomedical community.


Is there any hope of a change in Government policy?


Many of the flaws in the UK Government’s open access policy have been recognised by the Parliamentary BIS Committee, which in a report[3] dated 10 September 2013 described the Government as “mistaken” in focusing on publication in APC-paid open access journals as the route to full open access. Despite this clear message to the Government, UK governments are not known for their willingness to change policies in response to a parliamentary committee. There is a long history of publisher lobbying of BIS, and the lobbying machine will already be in overdrive to persuade David Willetts to keep to his policy. The big learned societies with publishing houses making substantial profits have also been active in supporting the Government’s policy. No evidence has emerged that those societies would be at risk if the Government did change its policy towards a more balanced repository/journal publication policy. Even before the Finch Report the evidence was there that a balanced policy of support for university repositories as well as for open access journals is the most cost-effective policy for universities, for researchers and for the taxpayer.   Will the Government be strong enough to resist the pressure from vested interests and follow the evidence? We shall know the answer to that question within a few weeks.


What can universities do?


Publishers are not the only organisations able to lobby Government! Universities can tell David Willetts that they want their researchers’ publications to be available through an open access repository without unnecessary delay. They can point to the fairness of a policy which would require deposit of a journal article in a university repository on the date of publication with release on open access after six or twelve months, dependent upon the subject of the publication. Universities can also ensure that their own open access policies are in good order, so that no government is able to use a lack of commitment within a university as a reason to adopt a policy bad for universities. In negotiating with publishers individual researchers should be encouraged to retain the rights researchers need to use and re-use research publications. Open access is about publicly-funded research being made accessible by researchers, their institutions and their funders, without artificial restrictions imposed by publishers. Open access is worth fighting for!    


Frederick Friend

Honorary Director Scholarly Communication UCL 


[2] The “Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings” chaired by Dame Janet Finch is available at .




Site Administrator recent presentations




23 May 2013 Presentation at Repositories Support Project event "Implementing funders' open access policies": "A good future for university repositories" available through , with blog comment on the presentation at .

22 October 2012: Presentation given at Birkbeck College London as part of an event for Open Access Week 2012. A video of the event is available at .

The slides are available separately at 


26 October 2012: Presentation given at the Open University as part of a series of events for Open Access Week 2012. Slides available at

22 November 2012: Presentation given at the OpenAIRE Conference, Pauliner Kirche, Goettingen

"For more than ten years open access to publicly-funded research publications and data has been a vision. Now we have the opportunity to make the vision a reality. In the policies for Horizon2020 we have the political framework within which research institutions, authors, repository managers and publishers can work to realise the vision. We can no longer hide behind the lack of political impetus for open access. We can no longer hide behind the lack of an operational infrastructure for open access. In every aspect of this open access infrastructure there are still areas to be developed, particularly in the area of scientific data, but the essential political and operational infrastructure is in place, and there is the political will to make it work and produce the benefits we all look for.

So what more needs to be done by those of us who attend this Conference and by the organisations we represent? Much of what I suggest may appear boring administration, but it is at this detailed level that the success or failure of the policies will now be determined. Firstly from the Commission we need clear and firm guidelines for researchers funded under Horizon2020 about what they need to do in order to fulfil their open access obligation. The guidelines should require every researcher to deposit a version of their article and its associated data in a repository from which it can be harvested as soon as the article is ready for publication. If the publisher requires a short embargo the article need not be released for public access until the embargo period has expired, but this should not delay the deposit in a repository. We have already lost too many open access articles through authors’ delay in making deposits. Secondly we need all open access repositories to be OpenAIRE-compliant so that the content can be harvested and re-used. The number of compliant repositories is still too low, and while the OpenAIRE team have helped by introducing plug-ins for different systems, more direct help needs to be provided for those repositories facing an additional workload to become OpenAIRE-compliant. The solution has to be a partnership between local repositories and the OpenAIRE team. Thirdly we need an easy-to-administer mechanism for those authors who choose to publish in open access journals. We need to make provision for authors wishing to publish in open access journals which do not charge an author publication charge, and also an easy payment-mechanism for authors wishing to publish in journals requiring the payment of an APC. As with repository deposit, so with the funding of author publication charges, uncertainty and the lack of clear guidelines have deterred authors from taking these options, which will be additional to deposit in an open access repository. If we can make all of this happen, and there is no reason why we should not, the vision will become an everyday reality.  

The open access vision is only the first vision. A second vision, which we have yet to address, is the vision of the effect of universal open access upon human society. This second vision did appear in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, but to date we have been so busy achieving wide-spread open access that we have not even developed the objectives for a vision to achieve the benefits from open access. In my mind it is a vision which enables humankind to conserve this planet’s natural resources upon which our life depends and to level some of the inequalities in access to those resources. Every morning I walk with my dog through the woods and fields conserved 130 years ago by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and his wife. Their conservation of natural resources sat alongside a commitment to the Industrial Revolution.

We know about their managed conservation of woods and fields through the books and manuscripts they have left behind. In the ones and zeros of the electronic databases compiled by today’s researchers there will be the seeds of policies for the conservation and sharing of the natural resources of the future. Maybe this will be thought of as a political vision, but the vision is rooted in the contribution the research undertaken in our universities can make to the well-being of humankind through and beyond open access."



Site Administrator brief bio

Frederick Friend studied history at Kings College London, obtained a postgraduate library qualification at University College London, and then began his library career in Manchester University Library. After Manchester he moved to the University of Leeds as Sub-Librarian and then to the University of Nottingham as Deputy Librarian before obtaining his first library director post as Librarian at the University of Essex. This was followed by a move to University College London, where he was Librarian for fifteen years before moving into a newly-created post as Director Scholarly Communication for five years. While holding the post of Honorary Director Scholarly Communication at UCL, he worked for JISC as their Scholarly Communication Consultant, undertook consultancy work for Knowledge Exchange and as an “independent expert” for the European Commission. Frederick is one of the authors of the Budapest Open Access Initiative and much of his work since 2000 has been in support of open access to publicly-funded research outputs. He is a strong supporter of changes in scholarly communication which have the potential to bring substantial benefits to the research community and to the taxpayer.