UK to enable open access to all publicly funded research

Wikipedia founder to assist with government commitment to OA publishing by 2014 in the wake of 'academic spring' movement.

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Willetts stressed that stakeholders should work together to ensure that publishing functions continue to be properly funded, and that the publishing industry therefore remained a "significant contributor" to the UK economy. However, this needed to be underpinned by a recognition that "open access is on its way." As part of this process, he has commissioned Dame Janet Finch, Professor of Sociology at Manchester University, to chair a working group of academics, publishers and librarians to examine the funding of academic publishing and possible mechanisms for enabling open access. The Finch group is expected to report back in June and the government will wait for the full report before unveiling its plan of action.

The minutes of the Finch group discussions are published on the Research Information Network website, and have been helpfully summarised by Professor Stephen Curry on his blog. The committee has spent time discussing effective ways of funding open access author-processing charges through institutional mechanisms, using perhaps such models as those deployed by the Wellcome Trust. According to the minutes, "This implies the need for a large-scale transfer of funding, in a controlled manner, of funding from library budgets preferably to fund researchers directly. Funders have a major role to play in helping such a transition."

Another proposal under discussion is offering 'fee-waived walk-in access' via the public library network. According to the Publishers Association, a number of technical and licensing issues such as authentication, copying rights, and security are still under review, but the expectation is that these matters can be resolved "within an effective and sustainable overall package of recommendations from the Finch process."

Willetts also announced that Jimmy Wales was advising the government on the development of a £2m UK 'Gateway to Research' portal, set to open next year, which will provide direct links to research outputs such as data sets and publications. The portal will present information in reusable form, using common formats and open standards.

Image courtesy of tribalicious via Flickr.

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