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<p>Chris Bird is a senior member of the Wellcome Trust legal department. Chris has extensive experience of policy and legal issues relating to open access, publishing, and copyright as it relates to digital media: he leads the Trust's legal work in these areas, as well as international science funding programmes and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Chris is a member of the PubMed Central Advisory Committee to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.</p>

Chris Bird is a senior member of the Wellcome Trust legal department. Chris has extensive experience of policy and legal issues relating to open access, publishing, and copyright as it relates to digital media: he leads the Trust's legal work in these areas, as well as international science funding programmes and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Chris is a member of the PubMed Central Advisory Committee to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

David Carr completed a master’s degree in genetics at the University of Cambridge and works for the Wellcome Trust as a policy adviser. In this role, he coordinates strategic planning activities and leads work on developing and communicating Trust policy on data sharing, Open Access publishing and genetics.

David Carr completed a master’s degree in genetics at the University of Cambridge and works for the Wellcome Trust as a policy adviser. In this role, he coordinates strategic planning activities and leads work on developing and communicating Trust policy on data sharing, Open Access publishing and genetics.

Cultural Studies . Jurisprudence . Social and Behavioural Sciences

A new arena for science

Science thrives on results – and they should be freely accessible

November 15, 2012

The viability of science rests on results – and these should be freely accessible. Reduced to a common denominator, this is what the term “Open Access” implies. But this form of publishing is still far from being the norm in the world of science. Our authors urge politicians and research institutions to pave the way and proactively contribute to changing attitudes.

TEXT Chris Bird and David Carr

Research institutions and funding agencies must always pay higher subscription fees to the publishers to get access to the results of that research - at least partly - was funded out of their own funds and resources. Zoom Image
Research institutions and funding agencies must always pay higher subscription fees to the publishers to get access to the results of that research - at least partly - was funded out of their own funds and resources. [less]

Although the Open Access movement is now more than 20 years old, it is a relatively recent development in the context of scientific publishing. Since its dawn in 1665, when the Royal Society published the first edition of its Philosophical Transactions, scientific publishing has had at its heart a fundamental agreement between the research community and publishers.

In return for having their work widely disseminated among their peers and for the intrinsic rewards that flow from this in terms of their status and professional reputation in their field, scientists have been prepared to forego any form of payment, as well as the rights typically afforded to authors via copyright. In addition, scientists have also been prepared to peer review the work of others as an unpaid service to the broader research community to help ensure the integrity and quality of the scientific record.

In traditional models of scientific publishing, publishers seek to recoup the costs of producing and distributing papers, including the management of peer review, by charging fees to readers and libraries to access their journals.

This process functioned comparatively well for more than three centuries, but by the 1990s, serious questions had started to emerge as to whether the best interests of the scientific community were still being served. Two major motivating forces were particularly significant in this regard: first, the emergence of the Internet made it possible to rapidly disseminate research in completely new ways and at a vastly reduced cost, removing the previous reliance on print-based publication. Second, research funders and institutions were paying publishers increasingly higher subscription fees to access research outputs that were at least partially supported by their own funding and resources, and commercial publishers were generating ever-increasing profits as a result.

These factors led to the development of new publishing approaches that sought to utilize the power of the Internet to make scientific information freely available to all. This culminated in the early 2000s with the launch of the PubMed Central repository, the Public Library of Science (PLOS) and Biomed Central.

A series of influential statements and declarations in support of Open Access followed – including the Budapest initiative in 2002, the Bethesda statement in 2003 and the Berlin Declaration later the same year. The Berlin Declaration was the outcome of the Max Planck Society’s first Berlin meeting on Open Access, and the annual Berlin meeting has since become the premier international open access policy forum.

As the Open Access movement grew, two main established routes developed through which scientific papers can be made available in Open Access form – commonly referred to as the “gold” and “green” models. Under “gold” Open Access, the publisher makes the paper freely accessible immediately on publication in return for a fee paid by the author, and attaches a suitable license to enable the content to be reused, subject to appropriate acknowledgment and citation of the author. In green Open Access, no fee is paid, but the author is generally permitted by the publisher to self-archive a copy of the accepted (rather than the final, published) version of the article in a public repository after an embargo period, usually six months or a year. In this model, users are typically not granted the types of reuse rights that are permitted under the gold model, such as the right to conduct text mining.

Recent years have seen the emergence of many new Open Access publishers – particularly PLOS and BioMed Central, whose gold Open Access-based business models prove that this approach is commercially viable. Their success is reflected in the increasing numbers of traditional scientific publishers that try to emulate the concept by launching their own fully Open Access titles.

 
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