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Getting high quality academic research for free with Access to Research

Written by · Published Jul 6, 2015

Our information and content librarian Helen Haynes discusses a project that aims to bring high quality academic research to everyone – for free.

What is Access to Research?

Access to Research is a pilot project to make publicly funded research available for everyone, for free.

It’s a collaboration between publishers, represented by the Publishers Association, and librarians, represented by the Society of Chief Librarians. It was started following recommendations of the Finch Group.

Why offer this research for free?

These kinds of academic journals and conference papers are normally only available via paid for subscriptions, most commonly through universities.

The government set up the Finch Group to look into access to research papers. The group’s findings led them to suggest that the major subscription-led publishers should licence public libraries to provide free access.

Why libraries?

Well, libraries are where people naturally come for information, they are accessible to everyone, have a great geographical coverage across the UK and we also have the IT infrastructure to allow for free access to be granted.

The licence that publishers have agreed with libraries means that Access to Research is available within library buildings, much the same as our subscriptions to family history sites Ancestry and Find My Past.

So in February 2014 the pilot was launched, with Suffolk Libraries signing up in March. This pilot is only available in the UK and almost all library services across the country now offer Access to Research and the aim of the pilot is to measure demand, if the service is being used then the licence will be extended.

So what kind of information can you look at?

There really is a broad range. Science is well represented with approximately 20% covering health and biological sciences, but there are also journals and articles covering topics from art and architecture to engineering and business economics to history and archaeology.

The database itself is easy to search with a single search box to type in keywords or the option to browse the range of journals featured.

Where can I access it?

You can search the Access to Research database from any computer, but to actually access and read an article you will need to be in a library — all our libraries offer free internet access. Just visit the Reference & Research page of our website.

How can you help?

To gauge the success of this project data is being collected throughout the 2 year pilot. We are also keen to collect the thoughts of people actually using the service.

If you have been using Access to Research and have feedback you would like to share, or if you would be interested in being interviewed as part of the evaluation please get in touch with me helen.haynes@suffolklibraries.co.uk