Open access: because it’s worth it

The cost of implementing open access policies in the UK remains a hot topic. It is part of the deliberations of the review of RCUK policy of which I am a member, and the question of costs continues to be raised in the context of the open access requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework.

As we transition to a fully open access world, by whatever route, there will undoubtedly be additional costs. Even in the long run, if the costs of subscription access to research don't fall there may be additional costs. And either way the transition period may be a long one. If the UK makes rapid progress, it may take the rest of the world time to catch up.

We can debate the costs involved, and should seek to reduce them if possible, but for me this misses the point. The goal we are trying to achieve is worth the extra cost.

The move to open access is about more than efficiency in an overly narrow sense, or achieiving instrumental benefits. The move to open access is about doing the right thing; making the findings of research available to as wide an audience as possible. Research that is locked away where many people can't access it is less valuable, so it is worth doing a bit less research in total, if the research we do fund is widely accessible. If the UK is at the forefront of the move to open access, and so incurs some additional cost, then that's fine. We are doing the right thing, and that is something to be proud of.