Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Summer Reading Happened So Fast but, Minister, It's No Basis for Policy

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Summer Reading Happened So Fast but, Minister, It's No Basis for Policy

Article excerpt

Open access needed 'more systematic evaluation', scholar advises Willetts. Paul Jump reports.

Ministers should avoid making policy "on the basis of their summer reading lists", a senior sector figure has cautioned.

The remark by James Wilsdon, professor of science and democracy at the University of Sussex, came after confirmation that the cost-benefit analysis carried out by the government prior to unveiling its open-access policy only examined the likely cost of the various options to the Exchequer.

At a hearing of the Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into open access last month, David Willetts, minister for universities and science, was asked what analysis his department had carried out.

The question followed claims from many academics, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, that the case for a wholesale shift to open access had not been made in their disciplines.

Mr Willetts said he would show the committee the "economic analysis" that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had carried out, but admitted it had "tended to focus on ... trying to work out the costs, not least for public expenditure, of different routes to 'green' and 'gold'" open access.

The analysis has now been posted on the committee's website. In his accompanying letter, Mr Willetts explains that the modelling was carried out while the Finch group - charged by the government with forging a consensus on how to boost access to research - "was still deliberating". It had reassured him that an open-access policy "in line with ... Finch's recommendations was economically feasible".

During the Lords hearing, Mr Willetts said he had also been "very influenced" by the book The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy (2002) by Joel Mokyr, professor of economics and history at Northwestern University in the US. …

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