Public access to publicly-funded research | News | BIS 2012-05-08


[Use the link above to access the full text of the speech made by David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Sciences, to the Publishers Association at their Annnual General Meeting on May 2, 2012] “I am very grateful for this opportunity to set out the Government’s approach to accessing and publishing research findings. We are very fortunate to have such outstanding science and research capacity in this country. It is second in its range and volume only to the US. When it comes to the output generated from the funding that goes in, it is quite simply the most productive in the world. And no other country produces such a high proportion of work that is excellent. The recent review by Reed Elsevier, amongst others, provides the rigorous evidence behind these statements. With 1% of the world’s population and 4% of its researchers, we produce 6% of the world’s academic articles and 14% of those which are most highly cited. There are about 1.7 million academic articles published around the world, of which about 120,000 come from UK research. Thanks to the quality and success of our publishing industry, meanwhile, 400,000 of the world’s academic papers are published in the UK. If the rest of Britain performed like our research and publishing community, we would have rather fewer economic problems to tackle. The Coalition is absolutely committed to sustaining this excellence. That is why we have protected cash spending for science and research. It is also why we have introduced higher fees and loans to be repaid by graduates, despite the intense controversy, to ensure our universities are well funded even as public spending is being cut back. Initiatives such as the life sciences strategy, the new Catapult centres, and the extra funding for high-performance computing are all aimed at strengthening our research capabilities in the face of intense international competition. Our research base is one of our greatest economic assets. But it also enriches us in deeper ways. It enriches our cultural life to have such a range of intellectual activity here. We have an extraordinary window on the world: just about whatever happens anywhere, from a hostage taken in an obscure tribal area to a new scientific experiment, there is almost always someone in the UK who can help us understand it. This is an extraordinary privilege that we enjoy and which we should not take for granted. It contributes immeasurably to the quality of our national life. The Coalition set out its strategy on research and innovation last December. We understand that academic research is not a sausage machine where you simply put public money in one end and count the patents and the peer-reviewed articles that come out the other end. Instead we think of it as an ecosystem with subtle and intricate interdependences. It has many elements. Crucial is a spirit of free – and occasionally eccentric – intellectual enquiry. That in turn is sustained by our autonomous universities and our learned and professional societies. The ecosystem includes great charitable foundations like the Wellcome Trust. It is enriched by historic collections of data and objects organised with extraordinary skill and care. You, our world-class publishers of academic research, are another key part of this ecosystem. We recognise the value which publishers add. Peer review is a crucial part of the research process... But value can also be added by identifying the academics to conduct peer review, through the editorial function of signalling which research is of the highest worth, and by helping others to find it. I do not scan the cacophony of opinion on the web to try to work out what is happening in the world: my laptop is set to open at the BBC news page. I do not follow wild and wacky online rumours. Instead I trust – well, usually – our leading newspapers and magazines to sort through the news for me. This process of winnowing data and research and then ranking them is of great value. Somehow it has to be paid for. But the way we pay for it is changing. Perhaps I might speak from the experience of writing my own book, The Pinch, on fairness between the generations. It was very frustrating to track down an article and then find it hidden behind a pay wall. That meant it was freely accessible to a professional in an academic institution, but not to me as an independent writer. That creates a barrier between the academic community and the rest of us, which is deeply unhealthy. I've heard of other anomalies: the lone researcher who enrols on an evening course he never attends in order to gain library access, since it's cheaper than buying the articles he needs to read; the small business owner for whom one advantage of employing a sandwich-year student is because she can print off research papers through her university library. So there has to be a right to roam freely across the achievements of publicly-funded UK research. The evidence underpinning our ambition for public access is compelling. For example, publicly funded and freely available information from the Human Genome Project l



08/16/2012, 06:08

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Date tagged:

05/08/2012, 09:32

Date published:

05/04/2012, 22:49