How many times have you seen tipping points? Many times, no doubt. How many times—and tell the truth—have you seen a tipping point coming or even recognized its occurrence clearly? Lots of us have just known in our heart of hearts that something would triumph some day, but usually, when it actually does, we seemed to have been looking out the window at something else. This could explain why we’re all not as rich as our insights should have made us.
Well, we all know that open access (OA) will achieve its tipping point and—dare I say it?—replace print publications and, more importantly, traditional print publishers. But it will happen in due time. That’s always the ringer—timing.
Let’s take a look at the teetering that has occurred and must still occur for OA to reach the final topple. First, let’s look at the players. Librarians were probably among the first groups to completely and ardently advocate OA. Their loyalty to the concept has been sterling, proving once again the wisdom of Alexander Hamilton, founding father, when he wrote, “the best security for the fidelity of mankind is to make their interest coincide with their duty.”
Professional ethics demand that librarians support the widest possible dispersion of quality information, even when it means some danger to their own professional careers. Anger, nay! fury at the costs of scholarly publications makes OA a happy dish that’s best served cold. But librarians cannot pull off OA on their own. They can facilitate, but they cannot fully implement.
The key players are authors (aka faculty) and funders. Now we see those players coming forward in monthly announcements. The Academic Senate of the University of California committed all the 40,000-plus publications each year from its more than 8,000 faculty members to OA. There are some questions involved, but the path is clear.
Disclosing Public Access
As for funders, the official date was late August for all U.S. federal agencies with more than $100 million in R&D expenditures to submit their public access plans to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. That’s a big one, but it’s not just us. There are other countries too. Statistics Sweden, the national statistical office of Sweden, announced in August that the Journal of Official Statistics, its official quarterly, will now be published by Versita, an OA platform.
In fact, the European Commission (EC) issued a press release on Aug. 21, 2013 (“Open Access to Research Publications Reaching ‘Tipping Point’”), noting that an EC-funded study reported that about half the scientific papers published in 2011 are now available free and more than 40% of scientific peer-reviewed articles published worldwide between 2004 and 2011 are now available in the OA forum. The study covered 28 EU countries and six neighbors, as well as Brazil, Canada, Japan, and the U.S.
Another interesting trending fact is that OA is becoming more open. BioMed Central, a born-OA publisher, just announced a change in its copyright and license agreement that will apply the Creative Commons CC0 waiver to data in BioMed Central or Chemistry Central journals: “BioMed Central aims to provide leadership in supporting scientific communities in the sharing of underlying scientific data, publishing it in standard formats, and supporting re-use and further analysis, which helps facilitate the discovery of new knowledge.” The CC0 waiver is data-specific and should free up data in “tables and additional files, graphical data points, and bibliographic data.” It’s a very good sign to see an already advanced advocate of OA pushing into new areas.
All these cited examples occurred in just a few weeks from late July to late August. The pace is accelerating. Are we there yet? Not quite. We still have some work to do.