The British government is to make publicly funded scientific research available for anyone to read for free by 2014.

Under the scheme, research papers that describe work paid for by the British taxpayer will be free online for universities, companies and individuals to use for any purpose, wherever they are in the world.

Tensions between academics and the larger publishing companies have risen in recent months as researchers have baulked at the high journal subscription charges their libraries have to pay.

Under the new scheme, libraries will not have to pay for subscriptions but authors will pay "article processing charges" to have their papers peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online.

A full transformation to the open approach is expected over the next two years.

David Willetts, the UK's Universities and Science Minister, said that "The real economic impact is we are throwing open, to academics, researchers, businesses and lay people, all the high quality research that is publicly funded. I think there's a massive net economic benefit here."

He said he hoped the EU would take the same path when it announced the next tranche of Horizon 2020 grants, which are available for projects that run from 2014. The US already makes research funded by its National Institutes of Health open access and is expected to make more of its publicly funded research freely available online.