As noted by Bob Campbell, Chair of the Publishing Research Consortium steering group:
"The so-called ‘access gap’ for small businesses has often been cited as a problem in the current scholarly communication system, without much idea of its extent. This study is an important first step in improving our understanding of how staff in small businesses use journals and what can be done to achieve even greater access."
It's a hot topic because small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up a huge proportion of businesses (over 99% in the UK), account for a significant proportion of private sector employment and turnover and, crucially, drive much of the innovation in the economy. Access to the research literature by SMEs hasn't been studied much and so this report is a very welcome addition to the evidence base.
The report includes primary data from an online survey and qualitative interviews and finds that SME access to research information is good, but could be improved still further. Key findings are:
- 70% of respondents for whom access to the literature was important described their access as fairly of very easy
- SME respondents read circa 112 articles per year on average which implies that there are no major access barriers
- Ease of access was lower among SMEs than in larger companies or universities
- SMEs are more likely to experience access difficulties than those in larger companies or universities
The research report Access by UK small and medium-sized enterprises to professional and academic information is available from the PRC website along with a companion report containing additional information and analysis.Mark Ware will give a brief presentation on the survey at an additional session of the ALPSP International Conference at 5:30pm on Thursday 10 September 2009.