Open Access gallops on

Note: I see that Stephen has beaten me to it with his post last night (does he never sleep?!?).  This post overlaps with his but not totally, so I decided to put it up anyway.

Progress towards the ideal of open access continues at a dizzying pace.

Benefits of OA

The UK Open Access Implementation Group have issued two reports on the economic impact of open access. The first report, Benefits of Open Access to Scholarly Research to the Public Sector, says that:

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 other report, Benefits of Open Access to Scholarly Research for Voluntary and Charitable Sector Organisations, details the benefits expected to accrue for those sectors.

The UK OAIG is a group working to make all UK research Open Access and includes RCUK and the Wellcome Trust.

Government support for OA

What a contrast with the dark days of 2004, when Sir Keith O’Nions, director general of the research councils, said in his evidence to a Select Committee enquiry:

I think it would be a pretty brave decision of the government at the present time to say it has sufficient confidence in the open access business model … to shift rapidly from something it knows and trusts to an open access model.

Now we have David Willetts, minister for science, writing in The Guardian that he will be:

announcing at the Publishers Association annual meeting that we will make publicly funded research accessible free of charge to readers. Giving people the right to roam freely over publicly funded research will usher in a new era of academic discovery and collaboration, and will put the UK at the forefront of open research.

The Publishers Association, no less! That is a pretty clear message of firm intent from the Government. He says that the aim of the initiative is to “strengthen the information revolution” but also mentions a US report that found:

[the NIH] policy of open access has accelerated the transition from basic research to commercialisation, generated more follow-on research and reduced duplicate or dead-end lines of inquiry

Another article in The Guardian reports that the government has drafted in WIkpiedia-founder Jimmy Wales to advise on this work.

He will initially advise the research councils on its £2m Gateway to Research project, a website that will act as a portal, linking to publicly funded UK research all over the web. “Jimmy Wales can make sure that we maximise the collaborative potential, the added value from that portal,” Willetts said.

Wales will also feed ideas into the work of Dame Janet Finch, a former vice-chancellor of Keele University, who was asked by Willetts to convene academics, librarians and publishers to work out how an open-access scheme for publicly funded research might work in the UK. Her recommendations to government are expected in June this year.

He’s also going to be advising us on the format in which academic papers should be published and data standards. One of the big opportunities is, right now, a journal article might be published but the underlying data isn’t and we want to move into a world where the data is published alongside an article in an open format, available free of charge.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what the publishers will make of all this.

OA advocacy

A few weeks back it was announced that Cameron Neylon, a scientist at STFC and one of the most influential advocates for open access, open data and open science, is moving to become the Director of Advocacy for Public Library of Science (PLoS). An interview with Cameron was published last week on the Scholarly Kitchen blog, which describes him as “one of the most thoughtful and thorough proponents of OA and opening science in general”.

He has interesting comments on economies of scale in publishing and the value of small-scale specialised publishers.  He points out that small is beautiful and cheaper. He also looks at the function of the scientific literature, and whether a traditional journal article is really the best way to communicate scientific findings.

This is mostly stuff that he and others have been saying for several years, but now it is becoming mainstream.

Well worth a read.

About Frank Norman

I am a retired librarian. I spent 40 years working in biomedical research libraries.
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