Scientists have applauded a new policy requiring a vast chunk of taxpayer-funded research to be made freely available online.
The policy - applying to all new research projects funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) from 2023 - follows widespread sector calls for more open access to peer-reviewed research.
“Opening access to research increases its impact by enabling more people to access scientific information and engage with research,” Research, Science and Innovation Minister Ayesha Verrall said.
“This in turn increases the innovation potential of our research and maximises the return on our public investments in research.”
Researchers could choose how and where their research was published, so long as it was made openly available through approved pathways, allowing more people to read it.
While some scientific journals required payments to publish work as open access, a second route enabled by the policy meant research could also be released via institutional or online repositories.
“Alongside the mandate for research to be made available, we’re issuing a strong recommendation for researchers to also make their research data openly available with appropriate metadata,” Verrall said.
“There are exemptions in these instances, for example for indigenous data sovereignty considerations, confidentiality, copyright, or other contractual obligations.”
While existing MBIE-funded research was not mandated to be published under the open research policy, it was recommended, she said.
“It will also allow us to contribute meaningfully with our international partners and meet international standards and expectations.”
The policy – likely to be expanded in future - brought New Zealand into line with the UK, US, Europe and Australia, where public funders have had open research policies in place for a decade or more.
MBIE supports New Zealand’s largest contestable pool in our science system, the Endeavour Fund, as well as the Royal Society Te Apārangi-administered Marsden Fund for “blue skies” research.
The Prime Minister’s chief science adviser, Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, welcomed the move.
“It’s really important that all government-funded research is open to the public, who ultimately pay for it.”
Along with that ethical cause, Gerrard saw the rise of online misinformation as a crucial reason to make peer-reviewed research more accessible.
Earlier this year, her office published a paper, led by intern Tom Saunders, that strongly called for an open research policy.
New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) co-president Professor Troy Baisden was similarly pleased.
“This is exactly what we’ve been hoping for, for a while now.”