OA research stories: Dr. Paul Kelley

“The speed of OA communication between researchers and the rest of the world is stunning, and heartening.”

Dr Paul Kelley

Why do researchers choose to publish their research Open Access (OA), or switch their article from being available via subscription to OA post-publication? In this latest research story Dr. Paul Kelley tells us the effect going OA had on his work.

Synchronizing education to adolescent biology: ‘let teens sleep, start school later” published in Learning, Media and Technology.

Originally published in August 2014. Switched to OA in July 2015.

Downloads: 25,271*
Altmetric score: 474* (scored in the top 5% of all research outputs on Altmetric)
Featuring on BBC News, in The Guardian, Medical Daily and Education Week

Open Access (OA) has allowed us to share our research with the wider world in a way that wasn’t possible when I published my first paper in 1977. Pay walls can inhibit communication between researchers and the rest of the world, a separation that has not always served science well.  This is more important when the subject is of current importance in the wider world.

“…the solution lay in a change of perspective…”

Our task had been to review the research evidence from medicine, sleep and circadian neuroscience, and education on the single issue of school starting times in adolescence.  The critical issue was current starting times are too early, leading to a wide range of harmful outcomes. Our analysis suggested that the solution lay in a change of perspective, from an educational one to a scientific one, based on the biology of time in adolescence.  This change in perspective would, according to our review of research, lead to starting times that were much later. Just before it was completed, the US Secretary of State for Education tweeted “…let teens sleep, start school later”.

“The impact was immediate…”

Synchronizing education to adolescent biology: ‘let teens sleep, start school later” was published online as subscription content in 2014. There was a respectable response, thanks to the Routledge team.  I took the decision after initial publication to make it OA partly on principle and partly because of the critical importance of later starts for adolescents.  The impact was immediate, with the number of views climbing rapidly.  As it turned out, in 2015 it was the most viewed OA article published by Routledge that year, to some extent because the issue was of such importance in the US.

There were also unintended consequences, as it was taken up by researchers in other parts of the world and generated press coverage in many different countries.  We were delighted, since “Synchronizing education to adolescent biology: ‘let teens sleep, start school later’” was intended to inform discussion and policy change.

Our article is making a contribution to the academic and educational debate and is supplemented by a video on the key issues. It links to powerful video messages from others as well.  The speed of OA communication between researchers and the rest of the world is stunning, and heartening.

Browse OA articles in education and find out more about publishing OA in a Taylor & Francis or Routledge journal.


Dr. Paul Kelley began his career as a teacher, university lecturer and academic researcher in learning. In 1992, he pioneered the practice of school students routinely taking undergraduate courses before they were 18.  His subsequent advocacy led to a change in the law in 2005 that ensured all UK students have access to university from the age of 16 through The Open University.  His call to reform access to elite university education in 2000 led to greater openness in recruiting. In 2005, he established the first trust school in England where, acting as both CEO of the educational trust and head teacher of the school until 2012, he worked with eminent external scientists to improve health and learning.  One of his primary areas of focus was sleep and circadian rhythms in adolescence, and he was the first to introduce a high school start time of 10.00 based solely on sleep and circadian neuroscience research.

Kelley was subsequently an Honorary Clinical Research Associate in the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford.  Central to his role there was sleep and circadian rhythms research to determine more optimal starting times for schools and universities. With Steven Lockley of Harvard and others, he wrote the most-read academic paper on later school starts. His call for 10.00 starting times in employment led to appearances on radio, TV and in the press. As President of Education for The British Association for the Advancement of Science (2015-6), he epitomizes the Association’s belief that science should be part of – rather than set apart from – society and culture.

Kelley has also worked closely with the BBC, independent television, Microsoft, OECD and the European Commission on learning research, as well as editing academic journals on neuroscience and education. He regularly writes for a number of publications including The Guardian. Raised in the US, he now lives in Newcastle. Contact Paul here.

  • * Data recorded 11/05/2016