The news will prove unpopular with academic publishers, which license and peer-review researchers’ work and charge libraries to make it available.
A group led by Dame Janet Finch will shortly advise the government on how to accomplish Willett’s aims online. But Willetts revealed it is likely to moot a “green” option, which would see journal publishers granted a short exclusive window on publishing publicly-funded research, and a “gold” option, under which the research would be openly available from the start.
Many researchers were already revolting against health and science journal publisher Reed Elsevier for selling bundles of journals containing their work, rather than individual journals, to libraries. Over 11,000 people have signed a petition.
Wresting exclusivity away from journal publishers could destroy some of their business value.
The UK is currently creating a portal, Gateway To Research, to provide links to published publicly-funded research and some of the data sets which underpin them. Jimmy Wales is advising on format standards.
Willetts acknowledged journals provide an important peer-review role but revealed himself to be an apparent opponent of publishers charging for content online:
The UK government is aligned with the European Commission, which has previously said it wants to see more free access to publicly-funded research and more open data, and claims the US Committee on Economic Development is moving in the same direction.
International consensus on the moves would be important else UK researchers could find themselves giving away their research to the world online whilst having to pay to access research from other countries, Willetts said.
Disclosure: Reed Elsevier Ventures is an investor in GigaOM, the publisher of paidContent.