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The web is destined to become humankind's cognitive commons, where digital knowledge is jointly created and freely shared.
Since the beginning of the open access (OA) movement a decade ago, the UK has been its leader1 even though it only produces about 6–8% of the world's research output2.
To explain OA, the UK's leadership and the RCUK's policy flaw, we have to define ten terms. The reason that research is publicly funded, conducted and published is so that the findings can be accessed, used, applied and built upon, advancing research productivity for the benefit of the public that funded it. This is very different from other kinds of content, published for royalty income rather than for research progress. The only kind of OA that can be mandated by institutions and funders is green OA (self-archiving in the author's institutional repository). So the UK's global leadership in OA comes from the fact that the world's first green OA mandates, both institutional mandates14 and funder mandates15, were adopted in the UK16.
The UK's green OA rate (about 30%) is also 10% higher than the global baseline of about 20%25,26. All articles must be deposited immediately upon acceptance for publication (and deposited by their authors, not by their publishers!).
Repository deposit needs to be designated as the sole mechanism for submitting publications for research assessment, for competitive funding, for grant fulfillment and for institutional performance assessment. Institutional repositories must provide depositors with rich online feedback and statistics on the usage, uptake and citations of their work29. RCUK can easily upgrade its existing green OA mandate to this simple, cost-effective compliance verification mechanism. Instead, however, RCUK30 has proposed a new mandate, designed with the aim of inducing journals either to convert to gold OA or to reduce their green OA embargoes (if they wish to keep publishing the UK's 6% of world research output).
This last clause unfortunately has perverse consequences32, which were not noticed by RCUK (Table 1). The RCUK requirement to pick paid gold over free green whenever both are offered would already have guaranteed that RCUK authors must pay for gold if it is offered, regardless of embargo length.
There was also a conflation of the need for open data with the need for OA: for open data, re-use rights (such as data mining, remix and republication) and corresponding open licenses are an urgent necessity – but data face no embargoes or copyright obstacles from publishers. For OA, in contrast, it is gratis OA that is the urgent necessity, for all users lacking subscription access, and publisher embargoes and copyright obstacles need to be taken into account. Nor did RCUK reckon with the prospect of author resistance to restrictions on their choice of journal, or resentment at the diversion of scarce research funds to pay publishers extra for gold OA, or outrage at having to choose the paid-gold option over the cost-free green option even when RCUK does not subsidize the gold OA fee.
But perhaps the most important perverse consequence that RCUK failed to anticipate was the global effect that encouraging publishers to offer hybrid gold OA and to lengthen their green embargoes would have on green OA mandates. Gargouri et al33 tested the Finch hypothesis using data from ROARMAP institutional green OA mandates and data from ROAR on institutional repositories.

Such an integrated, maximized-strength mandate model should be adopted, complementarily and convergently, by all institutions and funders, in Europe and worldwide38.
An instance of mutually reinforcing funder and institutional policies is the FRS-FNRS policy44 in Belgium. With the simple modification of the RCUK policy described here, the UK can continue to lead the way to global OA. For those who are worried about OA embargoes, there is a way to tide over user needs during embargoes too, with the repository's automated email-eprint-request Button.
An effective green OA mandate generates 70%+ OA within two years, and continues to climb toward 100% thereafter. Source: Gargouri, Y, Lariviere, V, Gingras, Y, Carr, L and Harnad, S, Green and Gold Open Access percentages and growth, by discipline.
The UK has been a leader in the global movement toward open access (OA) to research but recently its leadership has been derailed by the joint influence of the publishing industry lobby from without and well-intentioned but premature and unhelpful over-reaching from within the OA movement itself. The UK has now resolved to make all of its research output OA within two years3, but it can only do this – and it can only maintain its leadership role in worldwide OA – if it clarifies and strengthens its new Research Councils UK (RCUK) OA mandate4. The reason researchers do not provide OA unless mandated to do so, despite the benefits, is complex. Putting it in a desk-drawer instead of publishing it is a barrier to usage – and, for much the same reason, so is making it accessible only to journal subscribers rather than to all potential users.
Institutions and funders cannot mandate that journals must convert from subscription publishing (currently about 80% of the world's 28,000 peer-reviewed journals across all disciplines and languages) to gold OA publishing (about 20%12,13). As a consequence, the UK has the largest proportion of institutional and funder mandates in the world17 and has provided the first free repository software (EPrints)18,19, the first OA policy model20,21,22,23 as well as many of the OA supporting tools and services now being used worldwide24. This is nevertheless still far too low, since 60% of subscription journals already endorse immediate green OA and about 30% more endorse green OA after a 6–12 month embargo27.
Publisher embargoes can apply only to the date on which the deposit is made OA, not to the date on which the deposit is made.
This makes each UK institution responsible for monitoring and verifying timely compliance with the funder mandate while also motivating each institution to adopt a complementary institutional green OA mandate of its own, for the rest of its research output, funded and unfunded, in all disciplines. All RCUK grant applications and renewals must include the URL for the OA deposit whenever citing or listing published articles resulting from RCUK-funded research.
The proposed mandate forbids RCUK authors to publish in a journal unless it either offers libre gold OA (with a CC-BY license) or green OA (with an embargo of no more than 6–12 months). Far from inducing journals to convert to gold OA or to reduce their green OA embargoes to 6–12 months, it provides subscription journals with an irresistible incentive to offer ‘hybrid gold OA’ as an added option, at an added cost, and to increase their green embargoes beyond RCUK's limit! One need only do the arithmetic: suppose a journal's total subscription income is ?X and it publishes N articles per year. But RCUK has since conceded that although gold is RCUK's preference, authors may choose either green or gold if both are offered.

For most fields, the call for libre OA and an open license is neither urgent nor even necessary.
The rest of the world, which produces 94% of the world's research output, is unlikely to have either the resources or the inclination to increase by 94% the subscription income it is already paying to publishers – instead of relying on cost-free gratis green OA mandates. The National Institutions of Health (NIH) in the US have begun strengthening their OA mandate compliance assurance mechanism39. And be assured that the fastest, surest and cheapest way to hasten the inevitable and well-deserved death of OA embargoes – and a universal conversion to pure gold OA, along with as much libre OA as researchers want and need – is for institutions and funders to first mandate green gratis OA worldwide.
In: 17th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators (STI), Montreal, CA, 05 – 08 Sep 2012, 11pp (see ref. The result has been the extremely counterproductive ‘Finch Report’ followed by a new draft of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) OA mandate, downgrading the role of cost-free OA self-archiving of research publications (‘green OA’) in favor of paying subscription publishers over and above subscriptions, out of scarce research funds, in exchange for making single articles OA (‘hybrid gold OA’). Nor can institutions and funders dictate in which journal researchers should publish on the basis of the journal's business model, rather than the journal's track-record for quality. The reason for the shortfall is that the first RCUK mandate had no mechanism for monitoring and verifying compliance, hence no consequences for non-compliance. So a hybrid journal can instead increase its embargo length, to ensure that the only way an RCUK author can publish is by paying for the gold. What was not taken into account was the easy and cheap way for a subscription journal to add 6% to its annual income without having to convert at all: simply offer a hybrid gold option, which just amounts to a CC-BY license. RCUK inadvertently conflated the need for open data with the need for OA to articles, concluding that libre gold OA was as urgent and necessary as open data – and worth paying publishers 6% over and above what the UK and the rest of the world are already paying them in subscriptions.
And this RCUK-induced global dampening of green OA and green OA mandates by extended embargoes would rebound on the UK, for UK researchers don't just need to make their own 6% of research output OA: they (and UK industry) need access to the rest of the world's 94% of research output too.
The strongest mandates generate deposit rates of 70%+ within two years of adoption, compared to the unmandated deposit rate of about 20% (Figure 1). The motivation of the new policy is to reform publication and to gain certain re-use rights (CC-BY), but the likely effect would be researcher resistance, very little OA and a waste of research funds.
The effect is already detectable at the national level, where the UK, which has the largest proportion of green OA mandates, has a national OA rate of 35%, compared to the global baseline of 25%34 (Figure 2). And, of course, Germany needs to realize that it is absurd to believe that it is the sole country in Europe where requiring deposit of publications in an institutional repository would be an unconstitutional violation of academic freedom43. There is still time to fix the RCUK mandate and restore the UK's leadership by taking a few very specific steps to clarify and strengthen the green component by adding a mechanism for monitoring and verifying compliance, with consequences for non-compliance, along lines also being adopted in the EC and the US.

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