Monday, 2 June 2014

The Importance of Open Access

With the recent announcement by HEFCE regarding the post-2014 REF the issue of open access is more important than ever. Open Access (OA) means the free, online access to peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers and research reports. Open access material is freely available for any users to download, copy, print or link to the full text without restriction, as long as the authors are properly acknowledged and cited.

The University of Sheffield supports OA through its online repository, White Rose Research Online, which is shared with the Universities of Leeds and York. The repository aims to provide a long term home for research outputs as well as to promote the impact of this research along with disseminating it to new audiences, inside and outside academia.

The incentives for OA are clear. OA can lead to new and innovative ways of using research through increased visibility and accessibility as White Rose Research Online is indexed by search engines such as Google. This could potentially be beneficial for society and will almost certainly lead to an increase in citations for academics, as studies by Alma Swan have shown. Over 800 outputs from the Information School have been deposited into White Rose Research Online and on average there are nearly 3000 downloads a month and this number is rising. This shows how important White Rose Research Online is to web users who use it as a way to access research, and how beneficial it is as a means for publicising research. 

These incentives are further reinforced by the various funding bodies that are now making it a requirement that research outputs produced as a result of their funding are made available through OA. This is also highlighted by the HEFCE announcement which has stated that all work nominated for the post 2014 REF must be deposited into an institutional repository. This means utilising White Rose Research Online will not only offer the carrot of increased visibility and accessibility, but also help avoid the stick of not qualifying for REF.

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