by Joanna Ptolomey

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Starting today, the ATG NewsChannel will be featuring a continuing series of commentaries entitled Ptolomey’s Takeaways by freelance information professional Joanna Ptolomey. Before striking out on her own Joanna was part of the global consulting firm DTZ. She makes her home in Glasgow, Scotland and is… Well rather than us continuing to prattle on, maybe we should let Joanna tell you herself.

And here is the first installment:

UK open access research to drive business innovation? 

This is a very exciting time in the open access debate. Yes it is a contentious subject with difficulties in implementation for all parties. But then hard work isn’t easy, just the strength to ride out the journey is required.

However I am often surprised at the lacklustre, or perhaps even lazy, attempts by some at implementation. Consider the United Kingdom government recent launch of the Access to Research initiative.

The title sounds promising with an underlying political and economic wish that it will help drive business growth. More explicitly, to transform the small and medium size (SME) business innovation sector, by giving access and tools to the research base to encourage accelerated growth of levels of innovation.

access to research - www.accesstoresearch.org.ukIt appears to me that Access to Research is a somewhat dreamy initiative, executed and implemented with less than a spark of innovation. One of the issues could be contained in one of the title words – access.  

We live in a digital world. We expect access from our electronic device of choice and at any location. Surprisingly access here will in fact be at a physical location – a public library. If you are high performing innovative company or lean start-up you won’t necessarily have the time nor the inclination to pop along to the local library for research. Read local as England only too; what about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? The access points in England are also not equidistant around the country. You’re a busy innovator in a small organisation and you quite rightly demand access on your own electronic device – this is the world we live in and expect.

I have made a business out of helping people uncover and track nuggets and trends in the research base. It requires an understanding of the evidence base itself, how it is arranged and indexed (the content) but also precision and sensitivity in searching protocols (the tools).  Paywalls and technical paywall issues present further barriers. Put another way, it is time consuming to search through research if you don’t do it on a regular basis and what tools will help you make further sense of a search output?

The user experience is important and we must take cogniscence of how we interact, communicate, collaborate and share in the digital environment. The restrictive licences for Access for Research such as non-commercial and private study hardly sit nicely with the way innovation works. Features that also do not endear themselves such as password protected, no repository or archive building, no downloading, no adaptions or modifying doesn’t sound that helpful either.

You may think I am down on the UK government progress so far. It is easy to criticise. I have been following the open access journey for a few years now and this is just another part of the journey. There was never going to be an immediate right answer and whatever side you sit on – academic, publisher, innovator, industry, librarian, politician, member of the public – we are bound to see many initiatives and policies until we work a way through the hard stuff. But I do believe that more open access will drive business innovation, but Access to Research is not it.

Hard work isn’t easy, but it does make for interesting times. Strap in, this journey is still in the early stages.

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