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Million-page science collection to be digitised

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The not-for-profit technology provider for research and education, Jisc, and the publisher Wiley, are to digitise a one-million-page collection on the history of science. 

The collection will largely comprise content from the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS), now the British Science Association (BSA). Universities in the UK will also be able to put their collections forward for inclusion in this digital archive, provided that the content complements the BAAS archive and meets practical and logistic considerations. 

The collaboration is the first to offer universities a chance to influence what material is digitised by a commercial publisher.

Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research at Jisc, said: 'Digitising specialist archives is a costly enterprise and, over the last few years we have been exploring new business models to support digitisation of collections. 

'This deal is a first for Jisc and Wiley and was struck in response to our members’ concern over the cost of content and the desire to democratise access to all institutions, no matter what their size or income. We are hoping this project will pave the way for similar alliances with other publishers and collections in the future.'

Through the partnership, the resulting digital collection will be free to all UK universities and colleges and, once the licences to the content expire, will be made available openly and globally password-free. Scholars and teachers will be able to freely access materials dating roughly between 1800 to the 1970s via the Wiley Digital Archives platform. The history of science collection will be available from March next year, giving access to primary source material that might otherwise have been hard to access, and difficult to use.

Jay Flynn, chief product officer at Wiley Research, added: 'We are thrilled to be working so collaboratively with Jisc, the British Science Association, and leading UK universities to add a new collection to the Wiley Digital Archives program. Wiley Digital Archives allows researchers to peer into the science of the past to create scholarship for the future. This partnership will help the BSA and UK universities to unlock their content for a larger research audience through our global platform and expand access into educational settings at the same time. Wiley Digital Archive’s built-in text and data mining tools will increase discoverability while adding context to this powerful content.'

Katherine Mathieson, chief executive at the British Science Association, said: 'The British Science Association is delighted to have the opportunity to share its extensive archives of the history of science with researchers across the world. Currently these papers are only available to scholars who can travel to the archives kindly looked after by the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 

'This transformative partnership will extend access to many more researchers. These papers show that from the very beginning, scientists wanted to share their knowledge with everyone. We continue to realise this vision today through our work with communities and schools which supports our vision of a world where science is seen as a fundamental part of society and culture.'