This report tackles the important question of how to achieve better, faster access to research publications for anyone who wants to read or use them. It has been produced by an independent working group made up of representatives of universities, research funders, learned societies, publishers, and libraries. The group’s remit has been to examine how to expand access to the peer-reviewed publications that arise from research undertaken both in the UK and in the rest of the world; and to propose a programme of action to that end.
We have concentrated on journals which publish research results and findings. Virtually all are now published online, and they increasingly include sophisticated navigation, linking and interactive services. Making them freely accessible at the point of use, with minimal if any limitations on how they can be used, offers the potential to reap the full social, economic and cultural benefits that can come from research.
Our aim has been to identify key goals and guiding principles in a period of transition towards wider access. We have sought ways both to accelerate that transition and also to sustain what is valuable in a complex ecology with many different agents and stakeholders. The future development of an effective research communications system is too important to leave to chance. Shifts to enable more people to have ready access to more of the results of research will bring many benefits. But realising those benefits in a sustainable way will require co-ordinated action by funders, universities, researchers, libraries, publishers and others involved in the publication and dissemination of quality-assured research findings.