30 Oct 2019

Don't lock away research behind a paywall

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:20 pm on 30 October 2019

Many of us will have experienced this, clicking on an interesting headline about a new study or report only to find the article blocked by a paywall.

While it may be important to pay for journalism, are there some issues that should be freely available to the public?

A new report says taxpayer funded research - that could improve the life of New Zealanders - shouldn't be locked away. The Chief Executive of Tohatoha, the open-access advocacy group behind the report, Mandy Henk tells us more. 

She says open access is something that librarians, and others who work in the field of information, have been working on for over 20 years.

Henk says taxpayer funded research includes papers that come out of Crown institutes and universities.

“We are talking about researchers at universities, whose salaries come out of public funds, as well as Crown institute researchers who are publishing scholarly papers academic journal articles. That’s really what we’re talking about here.”

The New Zealand Journal of Medicine is a publication that would be made freely available to access under such a scheme, she says.

“The way that we fix this is, first of all, we need to come up with a national strategy so that we’re working together to achieve the same outcome. Secondly, we commit to investing in open infrastructure to ensure that we don’t have to rely on the infrastructure provided by commercial publishers.”

She says Germany and Sweden are good examples of countries that have had success with open access models.

“In some ways New Zealand is really behind the 8 ball on this one.”

Most academics are in favour of open access, Henk says.

“There’s not a sort of upwelling among academics to protect the system as it exists now, they understand that it’s broken.

“New Zealand is an entire country and it's small, so we have a real opportunity to make an impact nationwide that’s much harder in a system like the US, or even somewhere like Australia.”