Open Access Publishing - History


One early proponent of the publisher-pays model was the physicist Leó Szilárd. To help stem the flood of low-quality publications, he jokingly suggested in the 1940s that at the beginning of his career each scientist should be issued with 100 vouchers to pay for his papers. Closer to our own day, but still ahead of its time, was Common Knowledge. This was an attempt to share information for the good of all, the brainchild of Brower Murphy, formerly of The Library Corporation. Both Brower and Common Knowledge are recognised in the Library Microcomputer Hall of Fame. One of Mahatma Gandhi's earliest publications, Hind Swaraj published in Gujarati in 1909 is recognised as the intellectual blueprint of India's freedom movement. The book was translated into english the next year, with a copyright legend that read "No Rights Reserved".

The modern Open Access movement (as a social movement) traces its history at least back to the 1960s, but became much more prominent in the 1990s with the advent of the Digital Age. With the spread of the Internet and the ability to copy and distribute electronic data at no cost, the arguments for open access gained new importance. The fixed cost of producing the article is separable from the minimal marginal cost of the online distribution.

Probably the earliest book publisher to provide open access was the National Academies Press, publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, and other arms of the National Academies. They have provided free online full-text editions of their books alongside priced, printed editions since 1994, and assert that the online editions promote sales of the print editions. As of June 2006 they had more than 3,600 books up online for browsing, searching, and reading.

An explosion of interest and activity in open access journals has occurred since the 1990s, largely due to the widespread availability of Internet access. It is now possible to publish a scholarly article and also make it instantly accessible anywhere in the world where there are computers and Internet connections. The fixed cost of producing the article is separable from the minimal marginal cost of the online distribution.

These new possibilities emerged at a time when the traditional, print-based scholarly journals system was in a crisis. The number of journals and articles produced had been increasing at a steady rate; however the average cost per journal had been rising at a rate far above inflation for decades, and budgets at academic libraries have remained fairly static. The result was decreased access – ironically, just when technology has made almost unlimited access a very real possibility, for the first time. Libraries and librarians have played an important part in the open access movement, initially by alerting faculty and administrators to the serials crisis. The Association of Research Libraries developed the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), in 1997, an alliance of academic and research libraries and other organizations, to address the crisis and develop and promote alternatives, such as open access.

The first online-only, free-access journals (eventually to be called "open access journals") began appearing in the late 1980s. Among them was Bryn Mawr Classical Review, Postmodern Culture and Psycoloquy.

The first free scientific online archive was, started in 1991, initially a preprint service for physicists, initiated by Paul Ginsparg. Self-archiving has become the norm in physics, with some sub-areas of physics, such as high-energy physics, having a 100% self-archiving rate. The prior existence of a "preprint culture" in high-energy physics is one major reason why arXiv has been successful. arXiv now includes papers from related disciplines including: computer science, mathematics, nonlinear sciences, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, and statistics. However, computer scientists mostly self-archive on their own websites and have been doing so for even longer than physicists. (Citeseer is a computer science archive that harvests, Google-style, from distributed computer science websites and institutional repositories and contains almost twice as many papers as arxiv.) arXiv now includes postprints as well as preprints. The two major physics publishers (American Physical Society and Institute of Physics Publishing) have reported that arXiv has had no effect on journal subscriptions in physics; even though the articles are freely available, usually before publication, physicists value their journals and continue to support them.

The inventors of the Internet and the Web — computer scientists — had been self-archiving on their own FTP sites and then their websites since even earlier than the physicists, as was revealed when Citeseer began harvesting their papers in the late 1990s. The 1994 "Subversive Proposal" was to extend self-archiving to all other disciplines; from it arose CogPrints (1997) and eventually the OAI-compliant generic GNU software in 2000.

In 1997, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) made Medline, the most comprehensive index to medical literature on the planet, freely available in the form of PubMed. Usage of this database increased a tenfold when it became free, strongly suggesting that prior limits on usage were impacted by lack of access. While indexes are not the main focus of the open access movement, free Medline is important in that it opened up a whole new form of use of scientific literature – by the public, not just professionals. The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), one of the first Open Access journals in medicine, was created in 1998, publishing its first issue in 1999.

In 1998, the American Scientist Open Access Forum was launched (and first called the "September98 Forum").

In 1999, Harold Varmus of the NIH proposed a journal called E-biomed, intended as an open access electronic publishing platform combining a preprint server with peer-reviewed articles. E-biomed later saw light in a revised form as PubMed Central, a postprint archive.

It was also in 1999 that the Open Archives Initiative and its OAI-PMH protocol for metadata harvesting was launched in order to make online archives interoperable.

In 2000, BioMed Central, a for-profit open access publisher, was launched by the then Current Science Group (the founder of the Current Opinion series, and now known as the Science Navigation Group). In some ways, BioMed Central resembles Harold Varmus' original E-biomed proposal more closely than does PubMed Central. BioMed Central now publishes over 230 journals.

In 2001, 34,000 scholars around the world signed "An Open Letter to Scientific Publishers", calling for "the establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse in medicine and the life sciences in a freely accessible, fully searchable, interlinked form". Scientists signing the letter also pledged not to publish in or peer-review for non-open access journals. This led to the establishment of the Public Library of Science, an advocacy organization. However, most scientists continued to publish and review for non-open access journals. PLoS decided to become an open access publisher aiming to compete at the high quality end of the scientific spectrum with commercial publishers and other open access journals, which were beginning to flourish. Critics have argued that, equipped with a $10 million grant, PLoS competes with smaller OA journals for the best submissions and risks destroying what it originally wanted to foster.

The first major international statement on open access was the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002, launched by the Open Society Institute. This provided the first definition of open access, and has a growing list of signatories. Two further statements followed: the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing in June 2003 and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in October 2003.

In 2003, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities was drafted and the World Summit on the Information Society included open access in its Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action.

In 2006, a Federal Research Public Access Act was introduced in US Congress by senators John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman. The act continues to be brought up every year since then, but has never made it past committee.

In 2007, MIT OpenCourseWare, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to put all of the educational materials from their undergraduate and graduate level courses online, hit a monthly traffic record of over 2 million visits. Since then, university students have also begun sharing notes and knowledge through open access platforms. Platforms like GradeGuru are providing an open access community for students to share notes and peer review their materials.

The idea of mandating self-archiving was mooted at least as early as 1998. Since 2003 efforts have been focused on open access mandating by the funders of research: governments, research funding agencies, and universities. These efforts have been fought by the publishing industry. However, many countries, funders, universities and other organizations have now either made commitments to open access, or are in the process of reviewing their policies and procedures, with a view to opening up access to results of the research they are responsible for.

One of the many librarians involved in advocating the self-archiving approach to open access is Hélène Bosc; her work can be found in her "15-year retrospective".

Read more about this topic:  Open Access Publishing

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