Hundreds of thousands of research journal articles on health, biological research, engineering, social sciences and numerous other topics are to be made available online via computers in public libraries.
The Access to Research initiative aims to open up the contents of some 1.5 million articles from more than 8,000 journals around the world. It also highlights the growing role that the internet has to play in learning, and anyone with a library card will be able to use these new resources in their spare time.
Organised by the Publishers Licensing Society (PLS), the scheme is specifically targeting small businesses along with students and researchers, and has been established as a means of encouraging more people to use public library services and their facilities. Currently, the initiative allows for free viewing of materials by those publishers who have signed up for Access to Research, but only from computer terminals in public libraries.
Health and biology will account for 20 per cent of the content, while social sciences take up 18 per cent and engineering counts for 14 per cent. Other fields include art and architecture, business management, environmental science, history, journalism, languages, politics, film, philosophy and religion, mathematics and physics.
ALPSP, Bloomsbury Publishing, Cambridge University Press, Dove Press, Elsevier, Emerald, IOP Publishing, Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Portland Press, SAGE publications, Science Reviews 2000, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Versita, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer Health have all signed up to the programme.
According to universities and science minister David Wiletts, the UK is responsible for producing more than six per cent of global articles, despite a population of less than one per cent of the worldwide total. "The Publishers Licensing Society's excellent 'Access to Research' programme will now give the public free access to research around the world through our public libraries," he said. "This will connect people, including students and small businesses, to a wealth of global knowledge - maximising its impact and value."
Audrey McCulloch, of the ALPSP (Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers), added: "This initiative should support innovation and allow many more interested readers to keep up to date with the latest research."