Ray of light

August 21, 2014

It is important to highlight three misleading claims in “ ‘Dismal’ start for free public open access service” (News, 14 August), since these will potentially damage a valuable new service that local libraries are offering to the public. First, the view that the start of the Access to Research Initiative has been “dismal”. Peter Murray-Rust asserts that half a person per day has accessed the service in each local authority since its launch. This figure assumes that all library users in each local authority had access to the service from day one, when in fact local authorities have been joining the scheme individually over the past few months. Usage levels are dependent on public demand for the service, and this can vary according to the level of promotion of the service by each library once it has signed up to it and has trained its staff to use it. In the past three weeks a further 3,300 people have used the service, bringing the total number of users up to 17,800.

Second, Access to Research is described as being an “open access” service. This is misleading. The initiative implements a recommendation of the Finch Group that is not itself concerned with open access publication but rather with providing public library users with free access to articles already published under the subscription model.

Third, Murray-Rust asserts that money is being “wasted”. The scheme, which is free to use, is not funded by public money. It has been funded entirely by the Publishers Licensing Society, a not-for-profit organisation, on behalf of publishers who have provided articles for free. The software used to run the service, Summon, has been provided for free by ProQuest.

Through the Access to Research initiative, publishers are giving the public free access to more than 10 million academic articles. We hope THE readers will be among those who take advantage of this.

Sarah Faulder
Chief executive
Publishers Licensing Society

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