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New HEPI Policy Note Addresses the Challenge of Making Research Accessible Outside of Academia

Photo of two researchers in a lab. One is using a microscope and the other is pipetting.

In a new HEPI Policy Note, Why open access is not enough: Spreading the benefits of research (HEPI Policy Note 42), Victoria Gardner, Director of Policy at Taylor & Francis, and Dr Laura Brassington, Policy Manager at HEPI, ask how to make academic research accessible to different audiences.

Open access (OA), under which research is freely available without paywalls, is one of the main discussion points of the twenty-first century research environment. The benefits of OA are clear, from making research outcomes more impactful in terms of increased citations to enabling their wider availability within and outside academia. However, open access alone does not resolve the challenges policymakers, higher education institutions, academics and others face in making the best use of research.

In this Policy Note, Gardner and Brassington ask what challenges would remain, in a fully open access world, to enabling non-academic audiences to engage with research. They identify a number of challenges including:

  • growth in research and research platforms;
  • inaccessible language;
  • lack of incentives within academia;
  • differing timelines between government and academia;
  • a missing link between research and industry; and
  • public perceptions of research.

They also identify potential solutions for key stakeholders, such as:

  • tailored communication training and development for researchers;
  • embedding researchers within decision-making bodies;
  • more industry placements for academics; and
  • publisher-created spaces to facilitate engagement between academia, industry and the public.

Victoria Gardner, Director of Policy at Taylor & Francis, said: “The Policy Note is based on discussions that have taken place this year with representatives from higher education institutions, advocacy groups, funders, policymakers, and publishers on how to drive research and engagement. We are keen to work with HEPI and other partners to find ways to deliver on the promise of open access in driving the impact of research in academic and non-academic spheres alike.”

Dr Laura Brassington, Policy Manager at HEPI, commented: “Open access presents an opportunity to make more research more widely available and thus potentially transform the face of academia and democratise access to research. The next step is to consider how we can make that research truly accessible to and useable by a wide range of audiences. We hope that this Policy Note will contribute to conversations between academics, policymakers, industry, publishers, and the wider public.”

Read the Policy Note: Why open access is not enough: Spreading the benefits of research