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Open Access Week: Demand Public Access for Publicly-Funded Research


In 2001 a milestone was reached in a revolution that was fed by the internet's growing use and popularity throughout the '90s.  That was the year MIT announced their MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) program, a free and open educational resource (OER) for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.   OCW provides open access online to course materials for up to 1,550 MIT courses, representing 34 departments, and all five MIT schools.    


That milestone was followed by several others in succession: The 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, which called on all interested institutions and individuals to help open up access to peer-reviewed journal literature and remove the barriers, especially the price barriers, that stand in the way of the dissemination of knowledge;  The 2003 Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing to "stimulate discussion within the biomedical research community on how to proceed, as rapidly as possible, to the widely held goal of providing open access to the primary scientific literature;"  and in the same year the Berlin Declaration on Open Access, a document outlining concrete steps to "promote the Internet as a medium for disseminating global knowledge."


Open Access refers to unrestricted access and unrestricted reuse of content, and is most often applied in the context of articles published in scholarly journals.  Why is this important?  It matters because with the advent of online publishing, it no longer makes sense to charge for content derived from publicly funded research when it is possible to provide it to everyone with internet access for free.


In the past, when print publishing was the only means of disseminating research, most publishers retained the rights to the articles in their journals, and charged hefty fees to access them and even more to re-use them.   Even libraries, which provided the content for free to the public, had to negotiate a substantial price for their site license, as well as limit re-use of this content.


The Open Access movement has spread like wildfire.  In 2007 Students for Free Culture and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access together organized the first National Day of Action for Open Access in the US.   The first Open Access Day was declared in October of the following year, taking the movement global.   In 2009, the event was expanded to a week, and now takes place around the world during the last full week of October each year.


Open Access Week promotes the vision of the Open Access Movement, the impact of which continues to grow exponentially as more universities, libraries, and government institutions sign on.  Thanks to the movement, over 175 universities all over the US have instituted an Open Access Policy.  The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has even issued a directive requiring “each Federal Agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to results of the research" funded by the Federal Government.


Here's what we can expect to gain as a result, according to the Public Library of Science (PLOS):

  • Accelerated discovery. Researchers will be better able to research and build on the findings of others without restriction.
  • Public enrichment. Since the public pays for a large portion of scientific and medical research, now taxpayers can actually see and use the results of their investment.
  • Improved education.  Teachers and their students now have access to the latest research findings throughout the world.


Take Part in Open Access Week