Academic spring campaign aims to make all taxpayer-funded academic research available for free online
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, is to help the government in its bid to make taxpayer-funded research available for free online. Photograph: Luca Bruno/AP
The government has drafted in the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to help make all taxpayer-funded academic research in Britain available online to anyone who wants to read or use it.
The initiative, which has the backing of No 10 and should be up and running in two years, will be announced by the universities and science minister, David Willetts, in a speech to the Publishers Association on Wednesday.
The move will embolden what has been dubbed the "academic spring" – a growing campaign among academics and research funders for open access in academic publishing. They want to unlock the results of research from behind the lucrative paywalls of journals controlled by publishing companies.
Almost 11,000 researchers have signed up to a boycott of journalsowned by the huge academic publisher Elsevier. Subscriptions to the thousands of research journals can cost a big university library millions of pounds each year – costs that have started to bite as budgets are squeezed. Harvard University, frustrated by the rising costs of journal subscriptions, recently encouraged its faculty members to make their research freely available through open access journals and to resign from publications that keep articles behind paywalls