Australia's chief scientist wants to make academic research publicly available

Dr Cathy Foley believes opening access to academic research will ramp up Australia's commercialisation efforts.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor on

Australia's chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley has proposed to make academic research openly and freely available, believing it will help unlock further in-country collaboration, commercialisation, and innovation.

"I've been saying research is the superpower to be able to make any society … to be able to weather any changes that come across us, and we've seen our fair share in the last few years," she said, speaking during the virtual Collaborate Innovate 2021 event.

"But what we have in Australia is about AU$12 billion … in research and yet to be able to read that, we're paying … between the order of AU$400 million to probably AU$600 million a year in order to be able to see this -- and it's only able to be read by people who are either paying for a page by page or a journal article by journal article, or being able to have a subscription through their organisation.

"If we're looking at what we're trying to achieve as a country, where we want to be evidence-based in all the decisions that we make, why is it then that research is only available through these paywalls … and so I was wondering could we actually envisage a scheme where we can use the funds that are in the system already, make them available to a central implementation body that negotiates agreements to have open access of research from all publishers, leading us to access research or journals," she continued.

Foley hopes that if such a scheme were to exist, it would mean that every person based in Australia -- from individuals, industry, government, and other researchers -- would be able to access research or academic information.

In addition, Foley said she wants to see Australian-led research papers be made available to the rest of the world too, highlighting that opening up access would help build stronger relationships between the research community and other sectors.

"If you think about the importance of scientific publication and peer review, it's absolutely critical to gain that trust … this is why I think open access is really important because we need to make sure that everyone understands what information comes from and can be trusted," she said.

The proposal of open access, says Foley, is currently undergoing the final stages of prospective analysis. Foley added she has already put forward a proposal to the National Science and Technology Council, who have been "very positive and are supporting it". 

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