Why open access is not enough: Spreading the benefits of research
peter.suber's bookmarks 2023-01-28
"Open access (OA) is one of the main discussion points of the twenty-first century research environment. Catalysed by three declarations on open access in 2002 (Bethesda, Budapest and Berlin), the last two decades have seen growing commitment not only to open access but also to open research.1
In August 2021, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced up to £46.7 million in annual funding to support a new open access policy.2 A year later in the US, President Biden’s administration announced that by 2026 ‘US research agencies should make the results of federally funded research free to read as soon as they are published’.3
The benefits of open access are clear: evidence shows OA research outcomes are more impactful in terms of increased citations, and more accessible given their wider availability within and outside of academia.4 However, open access alone does not resolve the challenges policymakers, higher education institutions, academics and others face in making the best use of research.
A previous HEPI report on open access stimulated widespread debate; however, the controversy stemmed from the precise method proposed to provide online access to academic research – a national licence scheme.5 Both those who supported and those who opposed the report’s proposal typically agreed that opening up access to research for more readers was a good idea.
This Policy Note takes the debate to the next stage by considering how best to encourage the use of research. We project ourselves into a future where all research outcomes are open access and available to all readers. In this open future, we focus on what challenges may remain to facilitating engagement with research outside of academia, focusing particularly on the continued growth in outputs and the use of opaque language and terminology.
We explore some activities that might be undertaken collaboratively by key participants (researchers, decision makers, industry, the public and publishers) in the research and scholarly communication process. We believe collective activity would help us all work towards the goal of presenting research outcomes in a more accessible and useable manner, and support ‘knowledge mobilisation’, a term that refers to ‘the process of moving knowledge to where it can be most useful’.6
It is important to recognise that this Policy Note partly reflects the views of a UK-based stakeholder group. The ideas below would benefit from future conversations, collaborations and input from the global community, specifically stakeholders in lower and middle-income countries."