Tuesday, 7 June 2011

RCUK and HEFCE announcement to support Open Access

A majority of researchers would probably agree that Open Access is a positive way to disseminate research and reach a wider audience and the wider audience would probably appreciate their right to view research once barriers are lifted.   Removing the cost or avoiding the sale of a product is and has been shown to increase accessibility – take the aerial shots on Google Earth for example, how many home computer users have not snatched a look at their back yard or favourite holiday destination? The process is the same for documentation.
We sat down and discussed the number of ways that articles are being made and sourced as Open Access.  Our different backgrounds unearthed that we are often unaware of particular systems and procedures in disciplines outside our own fields and operations in other institutions. This serves to illustrate how complicated and mushrooming the idea of Open Access is, and how limited forms of Open Access have existed for a number of years.  Some kind of structuring and linkage between Open Access concepts appears a good way forward so the news of support from RCUK and HEFCE is welcome.
There are slight concerns about the clash of the peer review and so called pay to publish options (we realise these are the extremes and some hybrid versions are in place), as these can compromise and conflict with mounting pressures in the academic world.  Academics are aiming for journals with high impact (to meet REF needs), the ones outside the public domain that often come with the subscription.  The REF pressures far outweigh the need to dose every man on the street with detailed research findings.  On the other hand allowing Open Access to research and project documentation is an alternative opportunity to champion and publicise the achievements to similar and interested academic audiences whilst the general public can cast their eye over our achievements if they choose. Which system should we allow ourselves to gravitate to? 
How does this influence the HALOGEN group?  Much of our documentation is ‘white paper’ information on what and how we do things, information that we are willing (and proud!) to present to an open audience which also serves as a publicity agent and in effect enhances the purpose of our work.  In fact much of our documentation is (or will be) available, we are encouraged to contribute to our University repository and we have our HALOGEN project website.  The website is a source of information at different levels; short summaries for those with a passing interest and then the links and downloads provide detail to the audience who need to be more interactive or choose to know more depth in what we do.  There is an opportunity with Open Access to contribute to a bigger more widely accessible repository – but guidance is essential and we wait to hear the outcomes of this recent announcement from RCUK and HEFCE.
Andrew, Olly and Dave.