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17 July 2012, 15:50

UK moves closer towards open access for publicly funded science

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According to an announcement by the UK's science minister, David Willetts, all the papers resulting from publicly funded research will be freely available to everybody in the UK within two years. Willett's announcement came in the form of a responsePDF to a report by Dame Janet Finch entitled "Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications".

In her report, Finch, professor of sociology at the University of Manchester, estimates that the cost of converting all such publications to "open access" will be about £50 to £60 million per year, a small fraction of the cost of the research itself – the UK government currently spends approximately £4.6 billion per year on research. According to Willetts, the funding for the cost of publishing articles will be met out of existing research funds; the exact mechanisms for making such payments are still under discussion.

The announcement of support for Finch's recommendations has met with some criticism, mainly because it does not go far enough towards full open access. One commentator, Frederick Friend, notes that the report is biased towards existing methods of publication, and that its suggested approach to the provisioning of data is essentially "as an add-on to journal articles". Also, in its news report, the BBC stresses this point and notes that Finch's proposals do not take data into account that was used in creating any scientific paper: "It is the raw data that is as important if not more so to other researchers as the results themselves in order to make full use of the information to help their own research."

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