Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex 1


  Making available information stemming from the public funding of research requires all players involved (universities, funders, publishers, libraries, as well as researchers themselves), working in partnership, to recognise a set of rights and responsibilities, relating to five fundamental principles governing the publication of research results. These principles, set out below, are the foundation of the publications policies that the Research Councils will jointly develop during 2004.

  1.  Research Councils are responsible for supporting and promoting the activities of a research base that is vibrant, productive, and sustainable. We therefore have an interest in ensuring:

    —  the effective dissemination of ideas and knowledge;

    —  effective quality assurance of research and its outputs;

    —  cost-effective use of public funds;

    —  long-term preservation of research outputs.

  2.  Ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research should be made available for public use and public interrogation and scrutiny. Research Councils believe that both the results of publicly-funded research and the underpinning data should be made available as widely and rapidly as possible. Councils recognise that new Internet-based models for the publication of such output will play a useful role in the widening and speeding of this access, which in turn supports the Research Councils' knowledge transfer strategies.

  3.  It is imperative that mechanisms should be in place to provide quality assurance, through peer review, for published research output. Historically, printed academic journals have existed to provide this mechanism. Research Councils consider that, as long as robust quality assurance mechanisms continue to operate, there is no reason in principle, why other publishing models cannot play an effective role in enhancing the communications of research results both to the research community and to other stakeholders, including the general public.

  4.  In discharging their obligations, Research Councils are responsible for the cost-effective use of public funds. This means that we must constantly seek to achieve a balance between (a) the freedom of researchers to publish their output wherever and however they consider most appropriate for their audience, and (b) the need to ensure that the means of publication are cost effective; and that there are effective and sustainable financial models, with appropriate funding streams to support them.

  5.  In the longer run, it is essential that published outputs from current and future research must remain as durable as printed material has been over the past few centuries.

  The Research Councils are now considering the issues stemming from these principles. Over the coming months, we will consult with key players before establishing a joint framework of policies to ensure that these principles are put into effect in a changing publication environment; and that we support researchers in fully and effectively exploiting new modes and mechanisms for communicating their research results and reflect on how we might define a joint policy on the evolving research publications environment. By the end of 2004, the Research Councils will publicly set out their fundamental position on open-access publication in a joint declaration of principle.

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