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A Brief History of the Open Access Movement

In this article Jessika Rücknagel elaborates the history of Open Access.
Interior of a library
© Niklas Ohlrogge, Unsplash

Drastically rising subscription prices led to a poorer supply of scientific literature in the 1990s, as many institutions could no longer afford their previous subscriptions. This so-called serials crisis made it clear that a change in the current situation was needed.

Although the concept of free availability of academic publications certainly existed before, the term “open access” was introduced in the Budapest Declaration (Budapest Declaration 2002) in 2002. The declaration called for a transformation of the scholarly publishing system, suggesting two strategies: Self-Archiving and open access journals. Open access is, according to the declaration, “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.” (Budapest Declaration, 2002), while self-archiving means the practice of publishing a version of your own work on a long-term archiving platform.

In the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing from 2003, repositories are mentioned as a means to make self-archived articles available, as “[a] complete version of the work and all supplemental materials […]” should be “deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization” (Bethesda Statement 2003).

Also in 2003 the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (Berlin Declaration 2003) was published, specifying further steps to take in order to transform scholarly communication. All three initiatives stress the importance of giving appropriate “control over the integrity of their [the authors] work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

In 2008 another milestone was reached when funding organisations introduced open access mandates and the European Commission started an Open Access Pilot. Under the Horizon 2020 (European Commission 2022) funding program starting in 2014, the open access mandate was universal and expanded to include an open data component. In 2019 and 2020 respectively “Projekt DEAL” signed “publish and read” agreements with Wiley and Springer Nature, two of the largest commercial publishers, to increase the number of open access publications (Projekt DEAL 2020). Starting at the 1st of January 2021 the Plan S criteria (European Science Foundation, Principles and Implementation 2022) developed by the coalition S (European Science Foundation, About 2022) members were implemented by all participating funding organisations.

© This work by Jessika Rücknagel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
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