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12th September 2012

Manchester to receive share of £10m to open up research

Britain’s top research universities will receive £10 million from the government in order to open up research to the public

The University of Manchester will receive part of a pledged £10 million from the government as part of an effort to make publicly-funded university research open to all.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Manchester, welcomed the funding; saying that the university “supports the principle of making published outputs of research freely available through open access”.

A report published in June by the Working Group, popularly known as the Finch Group, estimated that the move could cost the UK sector an extra £60 million a year, mostly in additional publishing fees. This cost is the equivalent to 1,000 PhD studentships.

The extra funding will be shared amongst the 30 most research-intensive universities but follows opposition from some of them. They complained that most of the extra cost would fall on them since they published the most research.

This is despite the Finch report saying that universities should not be expected to bear the brunt of any additional costs.

The University of Manchester website cites the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Academic Ranking of World Universities which has consistently placed it 5th in the UK for research from 2010-12

A spokeswoman for Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said details of how the £10 million, which comes from a re-allocation of the science budget, would be divided among the universities were still to be determined.

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, welcomed the announcement of the £10 million but stressed that it is “a small step in the right direction”. She also stated that if the fund were to come by “raiding” existing science funds, as is currently planned, then “research will suffer”.

Speaking at the British Science Festival in Aberdeen, universities and science minister David Willetts described this as “an unstoppable international movement” which the most influential academic journals will eventually conform to.

The report recommended that the UK move towards making all of its research output open access, published preferably in ‘pay-to-publish’ or ‘gold’ journals. Once published, the research becomes immediately available and unrestricted, making it free for anyone to access.

Both the Russell Group and scholars called for the government to also consider “green” open access in which authors self-archive their research, making it easier to access and cite.

The recipients of the funding are the 30 universities that received the most combined research income from the research councils and the Higher Education Funding Council for England in 2010-11.

The money will be awarded as part of a block grant in April 2013 and will cover 5 years worth of research funding.

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