Monday, 16 July 2012

Paywalls set to tumble for publicly-funded research results

The UK's Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has just put out a media release this morning which is has something to do with the results of investing money in research rather than with the investment process itself:

Government to open up publicly funded research  
Down come the walls ...!
Academics, businesses and the public will get easier access to publicly funded research, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts will announce today. The Government will widely accept the recommendations in a report on open access by Dame Janet Finch, a move which is likely to see a major increase in the number of taxpayer funded research papers freely available to the public.

Currently most formally published research is only available behind restricted paywalls. Reforms will see publications opened up to a greater audience, providing more opportunities for research and development across a range of sectors. They will also support the commercial exploitation of research, contributing to the Government’s economic growth agenda. Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:
“Removing paywalls that surround taxpayer funded research will have real economic and social benefits. It will allow academics and businesses to develop and commercialise their research more easily and herald a new era of academic discovery. This development will provide exciting new opportunities and keep the UK at the forefront of global research to drive innovation and growth [Unless the removal of the paywalls is UK-only, presumably this will keep everyone else at the forefront of global research, whatever that is, too]”.
Among the recommendations that have been accepted by the Government are: 
  • Moving to deliver open access through a ‘gold’ model, where article processing charges are paid upfront to cover the cost of publication [this has already begun to happen where pay-to-publish has been recognised as having substantial attractions for those who thrive on the citation of their papers]. 
  • Introducing walk-in rights for the general public, so they can have free access to global research publications owned by members of the UK Publishers’ Association via public libraries. 
  • Extending the licensing of access enjoyed by universities to high technology businesses for a modest charge.
The recommendations have also been welcomed by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Funding Councils who have also set out their plans for open access. ...
This blogger hopes that the demands of easier access to research results will not be seen as an indirect form of pressure to disclose technical research results before their potential for patentability has been fully explored.

1 comment:

Rob Harrison said...

Open access is a bit of a two-edged sword. On the one hand one UK taxpayers will no doubt welcome the fact that research sponsored with their money is open to all -on the other hand other researchers worldwide benefit with apparently no push towards similar open publication of research.

One of the valuable services performed by companies such as Macmillan is that they also provide a new service which is not only of interest to scientists, but can also contribute to the public understanding of science through highlighting publications of significance.

There's clearly a balance to be drawn here. The "green model" of open access in which scientists are free to include their research publications on their own websites and/or publish in open access journals strikes me as a better choice than a model dictated on high from Whitehall. This preserves the diversity of publishing which can clearly be of benefit to all concerned.