Since launching earlier this year, the Access to Research initiative has grown quickly to include the majority of local authorities across England, Scotland and Wales. This means that researchers, students and members of the public across the UK can now access more than 10 million of the world’s leading online academic papers covering a wide range of disciplines, including health and biological sciences, technology, history, medicine and social sciences, just by walking through the door of their local library. So far, over 14,500 individual users have utilized the service.
The service, launched in February 2014, now has 163 local authorities committed to providing Access to Research to their users, amounting to 80% of UK local authorities. The Access to Research service is available from Torbay to the Shetlands and from Powys to Brent, with more local authorities expected to join over the coming months. These local authorities are now taking the lead in promoting the service via their libraries, so usage is expected to increase even further during the remainder of the two year pilot.
Users have been searching for terms as diverse as WW1, zombie ants, Hello Kitty, Geomorphology and applied economics, showing the breadth of information available. Initial user feedback has been positive: “Fantastic resource – I wish I had known about it sooner!” (Information Advisor, Sketty), and “Such a generous resource,” (Library user, West Sussex).
Access to Research has been launched in response to a key recommendation of the Finch Group, a committee convened by the Government to explore how access to publicly funded research could be expanded. The Finch Group recommended that the major journal publishers should grant public libraries a licence to provide free access to their academic articles. Access to Research is the result of a unique collaboration between librarians and publishers, who have made their journal content available for free to UK libraries. The content is searchable through the Summon® discovery service, provided free of charge by ProQuest. The implementation group, led by the Publishers Licensing Society, is gathering both quantitative and qualitative data during the two year pilot. These findings will be used to assess effectiveness of the service and to inform future delivery.