[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive] TGlobal Access to UK Research: Removing the Barriers [an error occurred while processing this directive]


University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

Global Access to UK Research: Removing the Barriers

Introduction to a one-day seminar, Universities UK, London, 20 November 2003

It's a great pleasure for me to give this opening speech of welcome and introduction to today's seminar on removing the barriers to the results of academic research and providing enhanced global access to those important results, in all their many shapes and forms. This is an important topic, by any standards, and it's one that's of critical significance to all those of us who play any part in the cycle of scholarly communications in the research community, whether as authors, as directors of research, as research administrators, as publishers, or as librarians and directors of information services in academic institutions.

There are currently many barriers which hinder easy access to the results of our academic research activities, among which the pricing and access policies and the varied licensing restrictions of rights holders are perhaps the most prominent; and, as a direct result of these, as we're all well aware, the whole system of scholarly communication is now under enormous strain. We are all agreed, I believe, that the traditional cycle of scholarly communication is unsustainable for very much longer, and not least because the availability of global electronic networks and the advent of open systems mean that new paradigms, and new business models, for the dissemination of research results are both desirable and inevitable.

The stresses and strains of the present unsatisfactory situation can be seen in the growing number of national and international initiatives which are currently emerging, as efforts are made to find new and better ways forward out of the morass. And the very fact that there has been such a high level of interest in today's seminar, and that so many of you have responded to the invitation to be here today is, in itself, evidence of the widespread enthusiasm for change in this vitally important arena. We're all agreed, I think, that something just has to give; and what we hope to do today is to try to take stock together of the various efforts which are being made to promote enhanced access to public research.

The big question, of course, is: Where is the present system of scholarly communications heading? What will it look like in, say, five years time? And which of all the current initiatives and experiments will influence future directions most noticeably and most effectively? I don't suppose for one moment that my crystal ball is any clearer than yours right now; but I'm delighted that today we have this valuable opportunity to look at the landscape and to scan the horizon together.

And I welcome you here today, not just as the Librarian of one of the UK's leading research institutions, but also as a member of the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee and as the Chairman of the JISC's Scholarly Communications Group - the SCG - which has organised today's seminar. The SCG's terms of reference include, among many other things, the identification of the "desirable characteristics of an ideal scholarly communications system, [by] addressing both the deficiencies of the existing system and optimising the opportunities that the digital age enables". And that's part of the reason why for us, in the SCG and in the JISC itself, today's seminar represents an important staging-post as we try to move more systematically towards a clearer understanding of where our collective future really lies.

So we're looking forward very much to sharing this overview with you today as we listen to, and discuss, what our distinguished panel of speakers have to tell us, and as we try to come to some interim conclusions, at least, as to where the key directions are among so many new developments and initiatives in this very active and complex field.

The Scholarly Communications Group which I chair is one of several parts of the JISC which are active in trying to determine future trends in this fast-moving environment: the Group has a think-tank role, or a watching brief, which enables it to advise the JISC where to invest its resources and its efforts, and especially in new developmental areas. We see our role as more than advisory, though: we also interpret part of our task as raising awareness of the key issues; and we also occasionally commission studies or sponsor practical pilot work, as well as sometimes adopting an advocacy role. Last year, too, we ourselves were commissioned by a nationally funded body, the Research Support Libraries Group, to provide a report on current and likely future trends in the scholarly communications arena.

One of this afternoon's speakers, my colleague Alicia Wise, who is JISC's Head of Development, will be saying a lot more about JISC's scholarly communications activities, so I won't steal her thunder now. But I think it's important for me to underline the fact that it has always been an integral part of the JISC's ultimate mission to bring about beneficial cultural change through the innovative application of ICT. And the JISC has shown itself routinely willing to invest at least some of its resources in development initiatives which hold out the promise of facilitating new paradigms of behaviour and practice in the academic research community.

The JISC has been centrally or tangentially involved with many of the key scholarly communications issues: peer review; journals costs and licensing; the migration from print to electronic; IPR; e-prints; open access publishing; self-archiving; institutional repositories; digital asset management and the long-term preservation of electronic materials - all these issues, and many more, have come under our scrutiny; and I expect that many of these things will crop up today in the papers we are to hear and the discussions we will share during the course of the day.

But what we in the JISC and the Scholarly Communications Group are hoping for as an outcome from today's seminar is not simply the achievement of a higher level of awareness of such issues (though this is obviously a good thing in itself, and it's certainly part of our purpose in putting on this event); much more, we are hoping that we ourselves will learn, along with all of you, from what we hear today, and that we will all be able to take back into our own communities and our local agendas a somewhat clearer sense of the possibilities for beneficial change. And we'd like to think that each of you in your own way will be able to address some of those possibilities and to bring your own influence to bear on how the future develops.

What most of us want to see, I believe - and this is certainly true of those of us who work in public sector or not-for-profit institutions - is a scholarly communications system with a much more explicit emphasis on open access - a future in which the outputs of publicly-funded research (and even of privately-funded research where there is a clear public need-to-know) become much more openly and easily accessible to all.

But how might this desirable future be best arrived at? How will the non-trivial technical aspects of open networks be finessed? And how will the economics of such a system work, since even open access is not cost-free at some point in the communications chain.

Well, to help us focus on the emerging answers to such questions, and to stimulate us with their particular enthusiasms for a number of alternative models for the future, we have, as they say, 'spared no expense' in bringing you a star-studded cast of speakers, who will come at all of this from a wide variety of different angles. We have a University research professor from Canada, a leading medical information scientist from the States, the Director of one of the UK's largest research-funding charities, one of the JISC's leading thinkers and strategists, a prominent Information Services practitioner, and a highly creative scientific publisher. So, if variety is what you're looking for, you've come to the right place!

And their topics will range widely and diversely across the whole scholarly communications landscape.

  • Professor Jean-Claude Guedon will open with a keynote address on 'The Development of Scholarly Communication', in which he will analyse how we have arrived at the present situation, and how some of the structural faults of the current system might in principle be remedied.
  • Dr David Lipman's presentation ('New Models for Research Publication') will outline some of the ways in which the scientific research communities in the United States have been working to enhance scholarly communications, through such initiatives as PubMedCentral, and the Public Library of Science.
  • Dr Mark Walport, in his talk entitled 'The UK research perspective', will provide us with the special insights of both a distinguished research scientist and a high-level research administrator and sponsor.

After lunch, our focus will switch to consider a number of specific UK-based initiatives already underway to improve access to UK research outputs.

  • Dr Alicia Wise will describe JISC's support for new models through the FAIR programme, setting that initiative within the context of the JISC as a whole.
  • Stephen Pinfield will update us on the self-archiving route to open access, and provide some practical insights into the challenges and benefits of institutional archives.
  • Jan Velterop (no stranger to many of us in this field) will give us the benefit of his first-hand experience of 'Open access publishing'.
And last but by no means least, Fred Friend, who was until very recently the Director of Scholarly Communications at University College London, and who is now, among other things, a JISC consultant, will chair a Discussion Forum and draw the day's threads together for us in the final session entitled 'What are we hearing?'

All our speakers are primed to answer any questions we may have immediately after their presentations; so please make a note of any issues you want to raise, and don't hesitate to raise them. And, of course, there'll be lunch and tea interspersed to keep us refreshed and attentive throughout! It's a packed agenda, but I for one am looking forward to it very much.

So, without any further ado, let me introduce our first speaker, Professor Jean-Claude Guedon.

Professor Guedon has a doctorate in the History of Science from the University of Wisconsin, and he is the founder of Surfaces, the earliest Canadian electronic scholarly journal still in existence. He is something of a Renaissance polymath, too, being currently Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Montreal. He is much in demand in the information science and research library worlds, and speaks and publishes widely and tellingly on both the theoretical and practical issues of electronic publishing. He has served with distinction on the steering committees of the Canadian national site licensing project and of the Digital Library of Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Professor Guedon is particularly well placed to talk to us about 'The Development of Scholarly Communication', and I'm delighted to invite him to get our seminar underway with his keynote speech: Professor Guedon…

Our next speaker, Dr David Lipman, is a medic and a distinguished research scientist whose specialist interests include sequence comparison methods, comparative genomics, and molecular evolution. Chances are, though, that most of us will know him better as the brains and the driving force behind Pub Med and Pub Med Central, the digital archive of the life sciences journals which has been such a pioneering and formative initiative in the scholarly communications field. As the Director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National Library of Medicine, Dr Lipman is based at the US National Institutes of Health Campus in Maryland, where the Bethesda definition of Open Access Principles was promulgated. David will no doubt tell us, too, something about the Public Library of Science initiative; and it's with great pleasure that I invite him now to speak to us under the heading of 'New Models for research publication'. Dr Lipman…

Our third speaker, Dr Mark Walport, has been Director of the Wellcome Trust since June this year, and he has had an extremely distinguished career as a medical research scientist. Until his appointment to the Wellcome, Dr Walport was Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London, prior to which he was for many years the Head of the Rheumatology section in the Royal Postgraduate School at Hammersmith Hospital. A trained doctor, he is also a widely published author, with clinical and research interests in immunology and the genetics of rheumatic diseases. He knows a very great deal about scientific research and its outputs, and it's with particular pleasure that I invite Dr Walport to speak to us about 'The UK research perspective'. Dr Walport…

Reg Carr
20 November 2003