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Teachers, NHS staff and small businesses should enjoy free access to the latest academic research in proposals published by HEPI

  • 30 March 2015

On Tuesday, 31st March, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) will launch a new report, Open Access: Is a National Licence the answer?, at a research conference held at the Royal Society. The paper calls for everyone in the UK to be given access to the latest academic research free at the point of use through a new National Licence.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

‘The UK is a world leader in academic research and a world leader in publishing academic research. Yet access to the latest work is severely restricted. For those outside universities, including public sector workers and business people, it is not easy to find out what is happening at the forefront of knowledge.

‘Although some academic work is now “open access”, the UK is giving people abroad free access to UK research without reciprocal benefits at home. That is not in the national interest.

‘A national licence would allow anyone with a computer in the UK to access the latest academic work free at the point of use. Teachers, NHS staff and small businesses would all benefit. So would politicians, civil servants and the media.

‘This radical idea is worth exploring as a way to ensure the UK continues to punch above its weight in academic research and academic publishing.’

Co-author Prof David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research), said:

‘We propose that a national licence for access would increase our competitiveness, support economic growth and provide broad public benefits, by providing improved access to research from around the world to NHS workers and patient groups, small and medium-sized employers, medical institutions, teachers and trainers, independent researchers, policymakers and interested members of the public.

‘There is no doubt that negotiating a national licence would involve reconciling a great many diverse interests, and this paper explores some aspects of that complexity. However, the prize at stake – bringing cutting-edge research to bear on every aspect of life in the UK – is of such significance that we must collectively pursue it.’

Co-author Sarah Chaytor, Head of Public Policy in the Office of the Vice- Provost (Research) at UCL, said:

‘Increasing access to discoveries and analysis is a widely shared goal for researchers and universities. Open access publishing is becoming an established element of the research process in the UK, and has the capacity to bring social, cultural and economic benefits to us all.

‘However, under the current system of open access, the UK is undermining its own competitiveness. We provide global access to our own research via the gold route with no reciprocal offering from most other countries, including those who rival or exceed our own performance in research.’

For further information, please contact Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, at [email protected].


Notes for Editors

  1. Open Access: Is a National Licence the answer? by Professor David Price and Sarah Chaytor is launched at the a HEPI conference on ‘Reflections on REF2014 – Where next? Research Assessment and Funding from 2014 to 2020 and beyond’, which is being held at the Royal Society on 31 March 2015 (more details at
  1. HEPI was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. It is a charity that is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan.


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