Open, free access to academic research? This will be a seismic shift 2012-05-03


“My department spends about £5bn each year funding academic research – and it is because we believe in the fundamental importance of this research that we have protected the science budget for the whole of this parliament. We fund this research because it furthers human knowledge and drives intellectual, social and economic progress. In line with our commitment to open information, tomorrow I will be announcing at the Publishers Association annual meeting that we will make publicly funded research accessible free of charge to readers. Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the forefront of open research. The challenge is how we get there without ruining the value added by academic publishers. The controversy about the status and reliability of reviews on TripAdvisor is a reminder of how precious genuine, objective peer review is. We still need to pay for such functions, which is why one attractive model – known as gold – has the funders of research covering the costs. Another approach, known as green, includes a closed period before wider release during which journals can earn revenues. While opening up the fruits of research is a seismic shift for academic publishing, it is not a leap into the unknown. There are many good examples in medicine. For instance, the Wellcome Trust requires all the research it funds to be made freely available online. A report this year from the U.S. Committee for Economic Development has concluded that the US National Institute of Health's policy of open access has accelerated the transition from basic research to commercialisation, generated more follow-on research and reduced duplicate or dead-end lines of inquiry – so increasing the US government's return on its investment in research. And the researcher Philip Davis has found that, when publishers randomly make articles open access on journal websites, readership increases by up to 250%. Moving from an era in which taxpayer-funded academic articles are stuck behind paywalls for much of their life to one in which they are available free of charge will not be easy. There are clear trade-offs. If those funding research pay open-access journals in advance, where will this leave individual researchers who can't cover the cost? If we improve the world's access to British research, what might we get in response? Does a preference for open access mean different incentives for different disciplines? These questions explain why I have asked Dame Janet Finch, one of the UK's most experienced and respected academics, to produce a report setting out the steps needed to fulfil our radical ambition. She is working with all interested parties and her report will appear before the summer. It is expected to chart a course towards a world where academic articles are freely and openly available at or around the time of publication. Twenty years ago it would have been impossible to imagine an encyclopedia written by millions, openly and freely collaborating via the internet. Today, Wikipedia is an important part of our lives and its co-founder, Jimmy Wales, will be advising us on the common standards that will have to be agreed and adopted for open access to be a success, and also helping to make sure that the new government-funded portal for accessing research really promotes collaboration and engagement. We want to harness new technologies to enable people to comment and rate published papers in ways that were not possible before, and we want to develop new online channels that enable researchers from around the world to collaborate and share data and build new research partnerships. With Jimmy Wales's help, I'm confident that we can achieve all this and much more. Our commitment to open up access to academic research will help strengthen this information revolution, and put more data and power in the hands of people. It's proof that there are still dividing lines in British politics – and that we are firmly on the side of openness.”



08/16/2012, 06:08

From feeds:

Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) »

Tags: oa.comment oa.mandates oa.nih oa.societies oa.open_science oa.peer_review oa.funders oa.wellcome oa.wikipedia oa.publishers_association oa.altmetrics oa.finch_report oa.metrics oa.repositories oa.policies oa.journals



Date tagged:

05/03/2012, 06:20

Date published:

05/02/2012, 15:13