Open Access Week welcomed by Chief Scientist

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Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley has welcomed Open Access Week from 25 October, which puts a focus on the need for research findings to be more widely available and easily accessible.

At the moment, much of the research output from universities and other institutions is locked behind journal paywalls, requiring a subscription or payment to read. While an increasing number of papers are published without a paywall, the researcher or their institution usually has to pay a fee to enable that to happen.

Dr Foley has identified open access as a priority. She is advocating for Australia’s transition to a system in which all research would be free for Australians to read, whether they are academics, policymakers, teachers, or members of the wider public.

Making research findings more widely available would improve impact from research outcomes, enabling an easier flow of information into decision-making and lifting scientific literacy. It would accelerate commercialisation by increasing opportunities for collaboration and new approaches.

Australia’s research is publicly funded, including through the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Australian Government invested $12 billion in science, research and innovation in 2020-21, and open access to Australian research would increase the Government’s return on its investment.

Dr Foley set out the case for open access in an article published in October in AQ: Australian Quarterly magazine.

She appeared on a panel on 25 October as part of Open Access Week, where she gave an overview of why open access will boost national research efficiency and industry. The panel is part of a series of events organised by Open Access Australasia.

In an interview with Nature, Dr Foley pointed to the breakthroughs that have flowed from the decision to make articles on the COVID-19 pandemic available without paywalls and subscriptions. The same advances could be achieved on other global challenges such as climate change, energy provision, and food security if the scientific literature was openly available, she told Nature.

Dr Foley has also been engaging internationally on the issue in recent weeks, including at the Berlin Open Access conference, where she set out a possible model, and the Wiley Research Seminar. 

The Office of the Chief Scientist is undertaking a prospective analysis, which will inform further consideration and consultation on a potential national open access strategy for Australia.

Read the text of Dr Foley's open access article. The full article is published by AQ magazine.