This message is addressed to scholars and scientists and it concerns the
Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) http://www.soros.org/openaccess
launched on 14 February by George Soros's Open Society Institute.
To be useful, research must be used. To be used (read, cited, applied,
extended) it must be accessible. There are currently 20,000
peer-reviewed journals of scientific and scholarly research worldwide,
publishing over 4 million articles per year, every single one of them
given away for free by its researcher-authors and their
research-institutions, with the sole goal of maximizing their uptake
and usage by further researchers, and hence their impact on worldwide
research, to the benefit of learning and of humanity.
Yet access to those 4 million annual research articles can only be had
for a fee. Hence they are accessible only to the lucky researchers at
that minority of the world's research institutions that can pay for
them. And even the wealthiest of these institutions can only afford a
small and shrinking proportion of those annual 20,000 journals. The
result is exactly as if all those 4 million articles had been written
for royalties or fees, just the way most of the normal literature is
written, rather than having been given away for free by their authors
and their institutions for the benefit of research and humanity.
As a consequence, other researchers' access to all this work, and hence
its potential impact on and benefit to research progress, is being
minimized by access tolls that most research institutions and
individuals worldwide cannot afford to pay.
Those access tolls were necessary, and hence justified, in the
Gutenberg era of print-on-paper, with its huge real costs, and no
alternatives. But they are no longer necessary or justified, and are
instead in direct conflict with what is best for research, researchers,
and society, in today's PostGutenberg era of on-line-eprints, when
virtually all of those Gutenberg costs have vanished, and those
remaining costs can be covered in a way that allows open access.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative is dedicated to freeing online
access to this all-important but anomalous (because give-away)
literature, now that open access has at long last become possible, by
(I) providing universities with the means of freeing online access
to their own annual peer-reviewed research output (as published in
the 20,000 established journals) through institutional
as well as by
(II) providing support for new alternative journals that offer open
online access to their full text contents directly (and for
established journals that are committed to making the transition to
offering open full-text access online).
It is entirely fitting that it should be George Soros's Open Society
Institute that launches this initiative to open access to the world's
refereed research literature at last. Open access is now accessible,
indeed already overdue, at a mounting cost in lost benefits to research
and to society while we delay implementing it. What better way to open
society than to open access to the fruits of its science and
scholarship, already freely donated by its creators, but until now not
freely accessible to all of its potential users? Fitting too is the
fact that this initiative should originate from a part of the world
that has known all too long and all too well the privations of a closed
society and access denial.
Please have a look at the BOAI at http://www.soros.org/openaccess
and, if you or your organization are implementing, or planning to
implement either Strategy I or Strategy II, I hope you will sign
the BOAI, either as an individual or an organization.
Below, I append links to some of the press coverage of the BOAI so far.
Declan Butler, Soros Offers Access to Science Papers (for Nature)
Ivan Noble, Boost for Research Paper Access (for BBC)
Michael Smith, Soros Backs Academic Rebels (for UPI)
[Alexander Grimwade, Open Societies Need Open Access (The Scientist)
[Denis Delbecq, L'abordage des revvues scientifiques (Liberation,