IN: Open Society
February 14, 2012 | by Melissa Hagemann
How long does it take for an idea to turn into a movement for change? And how long before that movement achieves its goals? Today, the tenth anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, seems like a good time to ask these questions.
The term “Open Access” (OA), the free online availability of research literature, was first coined at an Open Society sponsored meeting in Budapest in December 2001. The Information Program had supported the distribution of hard copies of scientific journals to universities in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and was interested in harnessing the power of the internet to more easily put academic research in the hands of those who could benefit.
So we brought together leaders who were exploring alternative publishing models. The group hammered out a declaration that would provide the public with unrestricted, free access to scholarly research—much of which is publicly funded. The declaration, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, urged academics to place their research in institutional archives and it encouraged the creation of new open access journals. The result? Ten years on, troves of scholarly research and information—which had largely been the domain of elite universities and wealthy countries who could afford it—are freely available to the public.
Today, Open Access is at the forefront of discussions about scholarly communications in the digital age. Open Access is taught in universities, debated in Parliaments, embraced and opposed by publishers, and most importantly, mandated by over 300 research funders and institutions, including the largest funder of research in the world, the U.S. National Institutes of Health. This rise to prominence is all the more remarkable when considering how ambitious the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was, as it sought to change an $8 billion industry. Few beyond the initial BOAI participants shared the vision that change was possible.