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Progress and Policies Reach a Pivitol Point as We Observe OA Week

One of the many joys of OA Week is the opportunity to reflect on the movement’s progress. It has been a watershed year for Open Access advocates as evidenced by the surge of momentum since last year.  Just this week a new study published in BMC Medicine shows that OA publishing is growing faster than previously thought. Last week,  the European Science Foundation’s (ESF) membership organization for all medical research councils in Europe, the European Medical Research Councils (EMRC) released a Science Policy Briefing (SPB) entitled ‘Open Access in Biomedical Research’ highlighting the need to accelerate the adoption of open access to research articles in the biomedical sciences across Europe. Governments, funders, publishers, and academic institutions are also leading the way by adopting Open Access policies more firmly than ever before. Here’s a snapshot of recent progress.


In July, three concurrent announcements–Research Councils UK – RCUK; the government response to the Finch Report, and Higher Education Funding Council for England – HEFCE–established a framework for introducing Open Access to the UK over a short period of time with implementation starting in April 2013.  Also in July, the European Commission (EC) published its own set of documents on Open Access, which further raises the possibility that Open Access will become a prevalent mode of dissemination of scientific research, and widened the set of potential publishing models. In the U.S., Open Access advocates are eagerly awaiting a response from the White House after successfully garnering more than 27,000 signatures on a petition that urges expanding Open Access to research funded by all U.S. federal science agencies.


The World Bank announced an Open Access policy that went into effect in July in  which its data and publications will be licensed under Creative Commons copyrights and made free to the public. In June, the Wellcome Trust announced that it will more strongly enforce its Open Access policy. Noncompliance could result in final grant payments being withheld. Last month, the Budapest Open Access Initiative issued a new set of recommendations, which reaffirmed and expanded on the original Budapest Declaration:


This summer also ushered in additional Open Access publishers that will contribute to our important cause. eLife and PeerJ are among those now accepting submissions. PLOS welcomes all new and existing publishing efforts that make research Open Access. Several other publishers are moving toward Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license licensing. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., announced revised licensing arrangements for proprietary journals published under the Wiley Open Access program. The journals will adopt the CC-BY, which allows commercial use of published articles. The Wiley Open Access portfolio also includes journals published with society partners, many of which will similarly transfer to the CC-BY license. A similar  development comes from Nature Publishing Group: Scientific Reports offers authors the option of using a CC-BY license. Scientific Reports published its 457th article on June 14, its first birthday, making it Nature Publishing Group’s fastest-growing journal. Springer also shifted this year.

Academic Institutions

The Faculty Advisory Council at Harvard University announced that it can no longer afford to maintain its subscriptions to academic journals. The announcement offers advice on what staff can do to alleviate the problem:

Consider submitting articles to Open Access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to Open Access. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as Open Access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning.

Purdue University passed a recommendation in 2012 for all faculty to follow Harvard University’s policy with similar licenses, requirements, and options. The recommendation includes modifying Purdue epubs, the existing university repository, as an Open Access repository.

In May, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) became the latest academic institution to adopt an Open Access policy for scholarly publications.

The steady progress toward Open Access is encouraging but our work is not yet done. Let’s continue this momentum and transform research communication together.

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