Hundreds of thousands of journal articles are to be made available to the public in Blighty's local libraries after a government consultation on how to expand access to publicly funded research.
The Access to Research Initiative is kicking off a two-year pilot programme today, after major publishers like the Nature Group, Institute of Physics Publishing, Bloomsbury, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press signed up to the project.
The Initiative will give people access to more than 8,000 journals from around the world with articles from a range of research fields including health, physics, politics and biological sciences.
"This country's excellent science and research base is world-renowned and one of our greatest assets. With less than one per cent of the global population, we produce over six per cent of global articles.
"But this still means the vast majority of global research is not subject to the UK's open access policy," said universities and science minister David Willetts.
"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. This will connect people, including students and small businesses, to a wealth of global knowledge - maximising its impact and value."
The technology needed to get the journals available online, including ProQuest's freely donated Summon service, was already tested by ten local authorities last year and will now be open to all authorities in Britain, with over half of them already in the process of signing up.
The Publishing Licensing Society (PLS), which is running the scheme, will ensure that the publishers are paid for copying extracts of their journals, including digital copies. The articles will then be available for free when viewed at a library's public terminal.
"We have been impressed by the tremendous support of both publishers and librarians for this project. We are delighted to have been able to put in place a framework which enables ever wider access for the general public to a wealth of academic research," said PLS chief Sarah Faulder. ®