Magazine article Information Today

Open Access Expands Its Reach

Magazine article Information Today

Open Access Expands Its Reach

Article excerpt

If I were Alice in Wonderland, I'd say that with each passing month the scholarly publishing landscape just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. Indeed, those who hoped that open access was just another fantasy in Alice's vivid imagination had better rethink the story line. At no other time in history has academia seemed so poised to abandon the way it has been conducting scholarly publishing and jump down the rabbit hole to experience a new, perhaps more imaginative, reality of liberating publishing from its traditional confines.

Trying to keep up with all the recent twists and turns in the open-access movement would make Alice a busy girl. And just in case she isn't certain about what open access means, BioMed Central would like to help her out. BioMed Central recently developed a blue "Open Access" label that it wants used on Web sites to certify that the content is Open Access as defined by the Bethesda Principles. As noted in a Dec. 1 editorial in Open Access Now, "The widespread use of such a label would provide a clear indication to readers about the status of the article they are reading and help to prevent confusion. Adoption of this type of Open Access' stamp would be a service to the wider research community."

The Bethesda Principles were drafted on April 11, 2003, at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's headquarters in Chevy Chase, Md. Under these principles, Open Access "refers to primary research literature that is immediately and permanently freely available online to readers, is centrally archived, and can be copied, used, distributed, transmitted, and displayed without restrictions."

Membership Grows

Perhaps it's not surprising that BioMed Central is trying to take the lead in sorting out what's considered Open Access material since the organization is experiencing a groundswell of new institutional members. In November alone, BioMed Central secured membership with three U.S.-based consortia, including the progressive Ohio Library and Information Network (Ohio-Link), which purchased a total of 84 institutional memberships for the state. And in December, 17 Australian institutions became BioMed Central members as part of an agreement with the Council of Australian University Librarians. There are now 396 BioMed Central members, with more than 300 institutions signing up in 2003. Of these, 190 are from the U.S.

"I expect there's an opportunity for BMC to add considerably more institutional members," says Rick Johnson, enterprise director for SPARC. "We're still quite early in the process, and SPARC will certainly continue encouraging more libraries to participate. The quickening pace of open-access activity will drive broader take-up."

SPARC, PLoS Partner

In November, SPARC announced a partnership with the Public Library of Science. This alliance aims to broaden support for open-access publishing among researchers, funding agencies, societies, libraries, and academic institutions through cooperative educational and advocacy activities.

"Both PLoS and SPARC recognize that open access speeds the progress of science and medicine, which is of substantial public benefit," says Vivian Siegel, executive director of PLoS. "Working together, we hope to demonstrate these benefits to scholarly publishing stakeholders on campuses, in the lab, and at funding agencies. …

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