Department for International Development (DFID)





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Ensuring a Government department’s research policy on open access is among the world’s best

Strategy and Policy | Research Consulting

The Department for International Development (DFID) was the Government department responsible for administering foreign aid. Now replaced by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, we were asked by the Department to review its open and enhanced access research policy.

The review aimed to put DFID at the forefront of the international effort to promote openness and equity in research. It recognised the complex relationship between accessible scientific knowledge and international development. While several voices are warning policy-makers in low and middle-income countries against formally committing to open access initiatives, we believe more can be done closer to home to improve access to research worldwide. With these ideas in mind, DFID aimed to bring its open access policy into line with recent developments in the open access field.

The first phase of the review comprised an assessment of the performance of DFID’s current policy. It showed that DFID had made significant progress towards increasing access to its research outputs in recent years. Most of DFID’s published outputs are free to read online, and the majority of academic articles are made open access immediately upon publication. However, the review also showed that there was a strong case for improving systems and processes underpinning research discoverability and accessibility.

Building on this analysis, in the second phase of the study we identified 41 opportunities to improve the effectiveness of DFID’s open access policy and bring it into line with recent developments in the field. We grouped these opportunities for improvement into five themes and assessed them using a cost-benefit analysis. This, in turn, informed the development of a set of priorities for action for DFID. The priorities were set out to enable DFID to become an international leader in promoting access to the research that it was funding. The review required a range of analysis and evaluation techniques, including desk-based research and stakeholder interviews.

This work for DFID was carried out during 2018 and 2019.