One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is hosting interns from all over Aotearoa who are passionate about working on issues at the research-policy interface. After finishing his PhD at the University of Auckland in 2021, Tom Saunders joined our Office to develop policy recommendations that will help to encourage open research in Aotearoa and start a conversation about the paywalls that sit between New Zealanders and the research they fund.

To have maximum impact and deliver maximum benefit to Aotearoa New Zealand and the world, our research should be freely available to all. In addition, says intern Tom Saunders, it’s a moral issue – “if the public are funding research, then they should be able to access the results.” At the heart of it, a quest to enhance research impact and transparency is what fuels Tom’s passion for the Open Access kaupapa.

With journals increasingly charging hefty subscription fees or requiring researchers to fork out unrealistic sums to have their research published openly, Tom’s internship report calls for journals to be reminded that their role is to “disseminate scholarly research as far and wide as possible,” not to act as gatekeepers to knowledge. Apart from the simple transparency argument, Open Access is becoming increasingly important in the era of misinformation – the internet allows anyone to do their own research, but paywalls present a huge barrier to accessing peer-reviewed and accurate information, in a world where conspiracy theories are free.

Looking at mechanisms such as rights transfers, green open access, offshore initiatives like Plan S, and more, Tom’s passion for Open Access is made powerful through his report’s practical and concrete recommendations and guidance. Tom has done an excellent job, of diving into the details, interrogating international solutions, and consulting widely across the sector and with stakeholders. I commend his report and recommendations and hope they move us further along the path to a future that is indeed open.

By bringing research out from behind paywalls, Tom is hopeful that public debate on science issues in Aotearoa will become richer, more inclusive and better informed; our research and innovation ecosystem will be strengthened as a diversity of ideas are shared, tested and commercialised; and government will be better positioned to formulate evidence-based policy through enhanced access to a deep and wide pool of knowledge.

And for researchers whose work is published open access, it’s a huge win too. After all, having impact is why many people pursue careers in academia to begin with – “they want their research to be used.” 

Read Tom’s internship report:  

Ngā manaakitanga,

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