UK minister backs sustainable open access

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The UK’s minister of state for universities and science has spoken in favour of sustainable open access. Speaking at the Publishers Association annual general meeting in May, David Willetts made the case for making publicly-funded research publicly available. However, he added that the government recognises the value that publishers add.

‘We need to have far more research material freely available, and we need to be better at editing and sorting it. The challenge is to discharge both of these crucial functions better,’ he said.

Willetts noted the differences in the ways that journals are used in different disciplines and also the need for international solutions.

‘In future we could be giving our research articles to the world for free via open access. But will we still have to pay for foreign journals and research carried out abroad? If so, would we not only have undermined a business model but an export industry too? … If so, there would be a clear shift in the balance of funding of research between countries. That is why, together with representatives of the academic community, I will be encouraging international action.’

In his concluding remarks he said: ‘Although we all are aware of the tricky issues around moving to open access, we must not lose sight of the big prize here. Open access is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. That end is improved popular involvement with the quite extraordinary output of our research community.’

Commenting at the STM annual spring conference, STM CEO Michael Mabe said, ‘We welcome Mr Willetts’ balanced comments on sustainable open access. We are actively contributing to the Finch Group in the UK through our colleagues at the Publishers Association, and we look forward to hearing their findings.’

In its February 2012 statement on open access STM said: ‘Publishers are committed to the widest possible dissemination of and access to the content they publish. We support any and all sustainable models of access that ensure the integrity and permanence of the scholarly record.’ The statement has, to date, been signed by 49 STM member and non-member publishers.>/p>