Kiwis need Open Access to publicly funded research

Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ is calling for all New Zealanders to have Open Access to publicly funded research.

Matt McGregor of Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ says: “From the point of view of the general public, the current system of scholarly publishing is broken. Taxpayers can end up paying for published research three times over: funding the research; employing the researcher; and buying access for a limited number of students and researchers to read the final publication. The public, despite this investment, generally receives no access whatsoever.”

This means that the social, cultural and economic benefits of taxpayer-funded research — including new research, innovative products, better public policy and a well-informed citizenry — are not fully realised.

“Hundreds of universities and research funders around the world have adopted Open Access policies. It’s great to see universities like Lincoln, Canterbury and Waikato leading the way in New Zealand on this front,” says McGregor.

“It would be of enormous benefit to New Zealand for the rest of the research sector to follow in their footsteps, and adopt Open Access mandates. This will enable everyone — including teachers, students, journalists and businesses — to have access to the research that we all pay for.”

Fabiana Kubke, neuroscientist, Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland and Chair of the Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ Advisory Panel, says:

“We put a man on the moon about half a century ago yet we still haven’t solved the problem of access to research. The more broadly we disseminate our findings, the more likely we are to achieve the goals set out by the NZ Education Act: to maintain, advance, and assist in the application of knowledge, to develop intellectual independence, and to promote community learning.

“These goals can be best met by making the research outputs available under Open Access and, equally importantly, allowing re-use. Creative Commons licences enable this to happen.”

Kiwi academics are starting to embrace the possibilities inherent in Open Access, but their efforts will need to be supported by mandates from research organisations and funding bodies. Chris Whelan, Executive Director of Universities NZ, says:

“We support Open Access policies across the tertiary sector. At present, published research is hugely expensive for public universities to access, and is largely inaccessible to the wider public. These costs have risen enormously over the last two decades, and we have not seen a reciprocal increase in benefits to either the university sector or the public.

“The existing paywalls to scholarship slow down the pace of discovery and prevent the benefits of university scholarship from being fully realised. Given the substantial public investment in research, Open Access policies should be adopted across the research sector, to ensure that New Zealanders have access to the research they fund.

“This will put New Zealand in line with universities and research funders overseas, and enable universities to more effectively share the fruits of their research.”

For Open Access Week 2014 (20-26 October), we celebrate the three NZ universities — Lincoln, Canterbury and Waikato — that have Open Access policies. Aotearoa also has a world-leading Open Access and licensing mandate for public sector data and information, dubbed NZGOAL, which was approved by Cabinet in 2010.

Now, Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ is calling for all publicly funded research in New Zealand to be Open Access.

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