Journal publishers are considering permitting free walk-in access to their content via public libraries, delegates at the Publishers Association a.g.m. heard today (2nd May 2012).
The proposal is one of a number of issues under discussion by the Finch Working Group, which is investigating how access to global research could be extended for UK researchers. The idea is confined to primary research journals only, with the group expected to report in June.
David Willetts MP, minister for universities and science, speaking at the a.g.m., said: "Open access is the way forward and this proposed PA initiative would be a very useful way of extending public access to the majority of articles currently only available to public libraries through subscription.
"If agreement can be reached on the PA's related conditions, it would be good for our libraries too."
Licensing and technical issues are currently under review by a specialist publisher-library group, including issues around copying rights, network security and authentication, but the PA anticipates any issues can be resolved as part of the package of recommendations to come from the Finch Working Group. It is expected the content available would be grouped together and licensed on an opt-in basis, probably via the Publishers Licensing Society.
PA director of academic publishing Graham Taylor said: "We expect this significant initiative will be a welcome new means of extending access to journal articles for SMEs, entrepreneurs and citizen scholars who might not have access to a research library.
"The repertoire of primary global research has hitherto not been available via the public library network."
Steven Hall, m.d. of Institute of Physics Publishing, called it an "important initiative" but added: "It must be seen however as an element in a balanced package."