open science: open access

The principle of open access is simple enough. It is about being able to find and read research and scholarship online at no additional cost (Willinsky).

Relevant to any discussion of open science is the definition of “open access” as set out in the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2012:

… its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

While it is still the case that a small proportion of peer-reviewed literature is available without charge, the majority of journals now grant permission for authors to post work in institutional repositories. The number of open access journals is growing, and these tend to be cited more often than those that require fees-for-access (Willinsky). These are signs that the open access movement is making progress.

As I argue here, it is particularly important that research results that have come about as a result of public funding be made available to that very same public without additional charges. Fortunately, public research funding agencies are coming to the same conclusion. In 2007, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), for example, became the first public research funding agency in North American to adopt an open access policy. From that policy:

Grant recipients are now required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher’s website (Option #1) or an online repository as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication (Option #2)…. Under the second option, grant recipients must archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts immediately upon publication in a digital archive, such as PubMed Central or the grantee’s institutional repository.

Likewise, in the United States, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adopted a similar policy in 2008:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication.

The public has access to these findings through the Open Science Directory, which provides a single interface to more than 13,000 open science journals, including those in the PubMed Central archive that is named in both the CIHR and NIH policies.

It is worth noting, however, that there have been attempts in the United States to challenge open access policies. In 2011, for instance, the Research Works Act was introduced in the House of Representatives; its goal was to rescind open access policies and to limit the sharing of scientific data. This bill was backed by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), an association no doubt concerned for its future in the face of the open access movement. It appears that protests by those opposed to the bill, including the American Library Association (ALA), have effectively halted its progress (Howard). Nonetheless, this close call serves as a reminder that open science, and open access in general, has powerful opponents in the for-profit publishing world.

Read more:



Association of American Publishers. “Publishers Applaud ‘Research Works Act,’ Bipartisan Legislation To End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing.” Web.

Budapest Open Access Initiative, September 12, 2012. Web. Retrieved Jun. 16, 2013 from

ePrints. “OA Self-Archiving Policy. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).” Web.

HLWIKI International. “Open access.” Web. Retrieved June 13, 2013 from

Howard, Jennifer. “Legislation to Bar Public-Access Requirement on Federal Research Is Dead.” Chronicle of Higher Education. 19 Jun. 2013. Web.

National Institutes of Health Public Access. “NIH Public Access Policy Details.” Retrieved June 13, 3013 from

Open Science Directory. “Open Science Directory.” Web. Retrieved June 13, 2013 from

Willinsky, John. “The unacknowledged convergence of open source, open access, and open science.” First Monday 10.8-1 (2005). Web.


6 thoughts on “open science: open access

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