David Willetts, the UK's Minister for Universities and Science, has announced that the coalition government intends to forge ahead with plans to offer open access to all UK taxpayer funded research. He also announced that Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales would be advising on the development of a new portal to enable public access to research. The announcement comes in the wake of the 'academic spring' campaign as a growing number of academics and funders demand open access to research results - most famously in the boycott of Elsevier journals which, at time of writing, has gained support from over 11,000 researchers.
Although the details of the government's plans are yet to be confirmed, the debate is developing in several areas of concern to librarians.
Speaking at the Publishers Association AGM, Willetts was adamant in his support of open access. "There has to be a right to roam freely across the achievements of publicly-funded UK research", he said. He praised the UK's "world class" academic and publishing sectors. "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," he said, "instead we think of it as an ecosystem with subtle and intricate interdependences." Perhaps wisely, considering his audience, Willetts went out of his way to recognise the value which publishers add, and acknowledged that peer review is a crucial part of the research process. He also praised the importance of information organisation skills, though he stopped short of mentioning the role that librarians themselves could play in this process.