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Open access to research worth £1.5bn a year

Academic cries freedom

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The UK is losing out on its investment in scientific research to the tune of £1.5bn every year, according to advocates of open access publishing.

Professor Stevan Harnad from the University of Southampton argues that because of the tradition of locking the results of publicly funded research away in research journals, the scientific community is not as free to build on and develop ideas as it should be.

He calculates that if all published work was self-archived (i.e. made available online, after publication in a journal), the research impact would be the equivalent of a further £1.5bn investment in UK science, every year.

He argues that only researchers working at institutions that can afford journal subscription fees have access to published research, and offers his backing to the Research Councils UK (RCUK) proposal that all publicly funded research should be made available on the research institution's website.

"RCUK spends £3.5 billion of Government money annually funding British science," he says. "Research, if it has any value, must not only be published, but used, applied, and built upon by other researchers. This research impact can be measured by the number of times an article is cited by other articles."

In related news, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to publish a paper recommending that access to publicly funded research must be broadened, both nationally and internationally. It says that R&D and the use of research is important to economic growth, and argues that open access would help maximise the return on investment.

Professor Harnad's paper: Maximising the Return on UK's Public Investment Research.

The OECD's paper is due to be published next week. ®

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