UK Government on open access: better than I could have hoped

May 3, 2012

Yesterday, David Willetts, the UK government’s Minister for Universities and Science, gave a speech at the annual general meeting of the Publisher’s Association.  The full text of the speech is online and very well worth reading, though it’s long.  He Gets It.

Also well worth reading (instead of the speech if you’re pushed for time) is Stephen Curry’s excellent analysis of the key points, which is almost word-for-word the post I would have had to write here if Stephen hadn’t already done such a fine job.

And for those who don’t have the time or inclination even to read that, the TL;DR is that Willetts understands the scientific publishing process, has been an author himself, recognises the value of publishers and their economic contribution to the UK, and generally has a good grasp of all sides of the issue; and that, from that perspective, he is absolutely clear that open access will happen in Britain, and that the goal is for that to be part of a collaborative international transition.

Some highlights from the speech, without further comment:

“Our starting point is very simple. The Coalition is committed to the principle of public access to publicly-funded research results. That is where both technology and contemporary culture are taking us. It is how we can maximise the value and impact generated by our excellent research base.”

“A pay wall … creates a barrier between the academic community and the rest of us, which is deeply unhealthy.”

“[The subscription] funding model is surely going to have to change even beyond the positive transition to open access and hybrid journals that’s already underway. To try to preserve the old model is the wrong battle to fight.”

“Provided we all recognise that open access is on its way, we can then work together to ensure that the valuable functions you [i.e. publishers] carry out continue to be properly funded.”

“The debate on open access will inform HEFCE’s planning for the research excellence process that succeeds the current one which concludes in 2014. Open access could be among the excellence criteria for qualifying articles in the future.”

That last point is crucial, of course.  It ties into Harvard’s goal to “move prestige to open access“.

Very exciting times!

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7 Responses to “UK Government on open access: better than I could have hoped”


  1. […] UK Government on open access: better than I could have hoped (svpow.com) […]


  2. Now we do the happy dance!


  3. Fantastic news. Open Access does seem to actually fit the existing prestige value set associated with most government funding better than the traditional models, which (with any luck) will help with evolving a system of national backing for open access.

    One of the classic criteria in both the US and UK, for example, is being “integrative” – i.e. having work that appeals and informs a wide variety of readers. Since most traditional pay walled journals can only reach specialist readers, pretty much by design, that makes them very poor for reaching the integrative goal.


  4. […] just read this in a Times Higher Eduction report on David Willetts’s recent speech: Graham Taylor, director of academic publishing at the Publishers Association, said … that […]


  5. […] news! The UK government is moving with impressive speed towards implementing its own public access policy: David Willetts, Minister for Universities and […]


  6. […] news! The UK government is moving with impressive speed towards implementing its own public access policy: David Willetts, Minister for Universities and […]


  7. […] are lots of ifs, buts and maybes, but overall this is excellent news, and solid confirmation that the UK really is committed to an open-access transition. Before we go into those caveats, let’s take a moment to applaud the real, significant […]


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