Since the early 1990s and the widespread sharing of content via the internet, open access, or freely available, academic research has been a topic for debate.


This month at CiteAb we’re exploring how we can benefit from open access publishing, and we thought it might be useful to share a whistle-stop tour of what we have learnt. We’re also sharing details of some of the open access journals that our team likes.


We’ll start our tour in early 2001, when an academic-led online petition resulted in the launch of the Public Library of Science. This petition called for all scientists to pledge that from September 2001 they would discontinue the submission of papers to journals which didn’t make the full text available to all, free and unfettered, within several months of publication.


Shortly after, the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative recognised that the internet offered an opportunity to make ‘the world-wide electronic distribution of peer-reviewed journal literature completely free and unrestricted (with) access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds’.


The Budapest Initiative made two key suggestions, the first being to give scholars the power and tools to self-archive their peer-reviewed papers, the second being the development and launch of committed open access journals.


Budapest was quickly followed in 2003 by the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Scientific Knowledge. Achieving over 400 international signatories, the Declaration looked to build on the Budapest Initiative by setting out specific measures which research policy makers, research institutions, funding agencies, archives, libraries and museums should consider.


A significant level of growth in open access publishing has been recorded since the early 1990s. During the first part of the 21st Century, to coincide with the Budapest and Berlin milestones, the average annual growth rate (as reported by PLOS ONE) was 18 per cent for the number of journals and 30 per cent for the number of articles [1].


Bringing the movement up to the modern day, in the past few years a great deal of activity has advanced open access publishing. In 2011 the Royal Society took a significant step, making all of its journal archive permanently open access. This totals around 60,000 historical scientific papers, including the first ever peer reviewed paper.


In June 2012 the UK’s Finch Report was published. The result of a year of investigation by academics, research funders and publishers, the report made clear that several different channels for publishing research remain important in the UK.


Significantly however, the report recommended a specific policy direction towards support for ‘Gold’ open access publishing, where publishers receive their revenues from authors rather than readers, and so research articles become freely accessible to everyone immediately upon publication.


This move was followed in the US in early 2013 when the White House announced that it planned to expand access to federally funded research. The move will see all federal agencies that spend more than $100m in research and development making the results freely available within one year of publication.


However, in light of these many steps towards widespread open access, January 2013 saw new controversy for the movement with the suicide of 26 year old Aaron Schwartz, a computer prodigy who was involved in the development of RSS feeds, the Creative Commons organisation and social sharing platform Reddit.


Schwartz was charged for downloading millions of academic articles, and it was suggested that he aimed to make them freely available online. His actions, which were a violation of the Journal’s terms of service, resulted in a severe legal response and at the time of his suicide Schwartz was facing a potential $1m fine and 35 years in prison.


The open access movement rallied behind Schwartz, condemning his prosecution and posthumously awarding him the ‘James Madison Freedom of Information’ award in March this year for his efforts in promoting free access to taxpayer funded research.


As promised earlier in this blog, our team has collated a list of some of our favourite open access journals to share with you. Do let us know if there are others you find useful and you think we should be including here!


PLoS Biology and other PLoS journals

BMC journals







We also keep a close eye on PubMed Central, a fantastic repository for open access information, and on the UK Open Access Implementation Group website for news.


That’s it for this week. We’ve certainly learnt a lot about the open access movement while writing this blog and there are some fantastic resources out there if you’re interested in learning more yourself.

From all here at CiteAb. Happy Wednesday.


– The CiteAb Team