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Free access to scientific research promoted

Research charity the Wellcome Trust is set to establish a free online publication to support scientists to make their work available for all, in a move that could speed up scientific discoveries.

The open access journal eLife will launch later this year and hopes to encourage publishers to increase the amount of free access they offer.

Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, told the BBC: “One of the important things is that up until now if I submit a paper to a journal I’ve been signing away the copyright, and that’s actually ridiculous. What we need to do is make sure the research is available to anyone.”

Nature Publishing Group said in a statement: “It could positively impact, by demonstrating that open access on high impact titles can be sustainable.”

But they have “concerns that the offer of free or subsidised publication might disrupt the growing open access market”.

Robert Kiley, who is in charge of open access for the trust said: “The currency of researchers is really about making sure their work can be read and can be cited. And clearly having it freely available for everyone to read enhances that.

“So I think what will happen is that those publishers who do not have an open access model will move into this road; they’ll see which way the wind’s blowing, and they’ll provide options for researchers to publish under a fully open access model.”

Other concerns are that open access could be damaging to the peer review system, although Kiley suggests this is unaffected by whether the journal is paid for by subscription or free to access.

He said: “Those two elements, quality and open access, are completely separate, and it's a bit of a red herring to conflate them. Of course there are low quality open access journals, but there are also low quality subscription journals. Quality and cost are not related.”

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