Public sector saves £28 million through open access, but much greater rewards to come, says report
“Open Access to published scholarly research offers significant benefits to the UK, according to two reports released today by the UK Open Access Implementation Group. The UK public sector already saves £28.6 million by using open access. The reports make it clear that both the public sector and the voluntary sector would see further direct and indirect benefits from increased access to UK higher education research publications. Already, more Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations use open access than pay for subscriptions, despite the fact that subscription journals make up the vast majority of journals on offer. The UK public sector spends £135 million a year, made up of subscriptions and time spent trying to find articles, accessing the journal papers it needs to perform effectively. Each extra 5% of journal papers accessed via open access on the web would save the public purse £1.7 million, even if no subscription fees were to be saved. The UK's valuable voluntary and charitable sector would also benefit from open access to academic research. For survey respondents, the two most frequently mentioned barriers to accessing research were cost (80%) and lack of time (46%). Professor Martin Hall, vice-chancellor at the University of Salford and chair of the OAIG, says, ‘These findings mark a turning point in the quiet revolution of open access. There are many good reasons for making research available on an open access basis, and the reports are clear that one reason is because open access makes economic sense. The UK Open Access Implementation Group is committed to helping the public, private and academic sectors benefit from UK research and I am proud that these reports further that cause.’ Making more research free at the point of access, and easier to search across could produce significant savings, but could also lead to better decisions based on all the available evidence. As one senior scientific officer in a specialist scientific unit of large department of state observes ‘Open access would allow a lot more speculative reading and reading around the subject which is really useful for a holistic and high quality view to be developed.’ This, in turn, offers benefits back to researchers, boosting the impact of their research by increasing its reach outside the academy. These findings are borne out across all three reports in this series, and this body of new, quantitative work provides compelling evidence that increasing open access to research articles will have direct financial and practical benefits for the UK as a whole, benefits that are especially valuable in a time of austerity. The reports make a number of recommendations around increasing awareness of open access in these two important sectors. These include promoting the value of the information produced as a result of public research funding and exploring ways of improving relationships between academic researchers and workers [in] other sectors who rely on their research to do their jobs well.