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Scientific Publications: Time for change


Changes in scientific publishing are "necessary as a matter of urgency" and everyone should have free, open access to UK research findings. So says the UK House of Commons Science & Technology Committee in their report on scientific publishing, published today.

Vitek Tracz, Chairman of the Open Access publisher BioMed Central said: "We welcome this important and forward-looking report which marks the beginning of a new era. Change is essential for science and will benefit society."

Crucially, the report recommends that UK research funding bodies mandate free access to all their research findings. "This will lead to a profound change in the way that scientific literature is published, and validates the author-pays ’Open Access’ publishing model which we at BioMed Central pioneered," Tracz remarked.

The Committee urge the UK Government to "act as a proponent for change" and "lead by example".

Some UK funders have already shown great support for the Open Access publishing model. By signing agreements with BioMed Central, JISC and NHS England have made it possible for many UK researchers to publish free of charge in Open Access journals.

The Committee recommends that UK Research Councils follow this lead and make funds available to pay author charges. This would mean that all publicly funded UK researchers would be able to make their research findings Open Access, at no cost to themselves. "This support will help to ensure the success of the author-pays model of publishing," said Tracz.

To improve access to research findings in the short term, the Committee have called for all UK higher education institutions to "establish institutional repositories on which their published output can be stored and from which it can be read, free of charge, online". In addition, they ask Research Councils to "mandate their funded researchers to deposit a copy of all their articles in their institutional repository [...] as a condition of their grant".

Natasha Robshaw, BioMed Central’s Sales and Marketing manager said: "All the research we publish is already immediately archived in the Open Access repository, PubMed Central. As a service to authors, we will automatically deposit research from UK researchers that is published in our journals in these institutional repositories, once they are set up. This will take the responsibility away from the researchers, with immediate benefit for readers."

Access to scientific research is an international issue. The Committee’s conclusions have been published just as the US House of Representatives has made a similar recommendation that research funded by National Institutes for Health (NIH) should be freely available. Also, the European Commission is currently conducting a study on scientific publications.

"This is the point of no return," said Tracz. "It is now time for the publishing model to change."

Gemma Bradley | BioMed Central
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