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The Journey to Open Access: Past and Present

This post is part of a five-part series published in celebration of International Open Access Week 2022. We encourage you to explore the entire series below, which offers valuable insights and resources in support of advancing transparency and inclusion in the scientific community through open access.

OPEN ACCESS WEEK 2022 BLOG SERIES
Celebrate Open Access Week 2022 with ACS Publications
Fostering a Climate of Open Science
Open Access Copyright and Licensing: A Guide for Authors
The Journey to Open Access: Past and Present
Looking Ahead: The Future of Open Access

Defining Open Access: The Early Years 

The term “open access” (OA) has been around for more than two decades, but the movement to make scientific research more openly and publicly available began well before it even had a name. 

With the rise of the internet in the 1990s, communicating and sharing knowledge with others around the world became easier than ever. Early repositories such as arXiv.org enabled researchers to post and archive their own research prior to official publication, setting the groundwork for modern-day preprint servers.  

It wasn’t until the early 2000s, with the release of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) in 2002, that “open access” emerged as the defining term for scholarly research that is openly available online, accessible to everyone, and unrestricted by paywalls or financial barriers. 

OA—both the term and the movement—quickly began gaining traction internationally, and it was further expanded upon in 2003 with the publication of both the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. These two statements, along with the BOAI, helped form what philosopher and OA pioneer Peter Suber first referred to as the “BBB Definition” of open access. 

A Growing Movement 

ACS Central Science - Inaugural Cover

The OA movement continued to develop throughout the 2010s, with the launch of many policies, campaigns, initiatives, and journals in support of making scholarly research freely and publicly available online. In 2015, ACS launched its first fully OA journal—ACS Central Science—with an infinity symbol on its inaugural cover to represent “no limits to the reach of chemistry and no barriers to access for interested readers and authors.”  

Then, in 2018, a group of funders across Europe (known as cOAlition S) caused a tremendous stir in the scientific publishing world by launching Plan S—an initiative stating that by 2021, all researchers funded by these agencies will be required to publish in fully OA journals, making their research openly available with a broad CC BY license immediately upon publication. To better align with Plan S requirements, ACS Publications worked with cOAlition S to award its full portfolio of subscription journals with Transformative Journal status. This now allows researchers funded by Plan S participants to have more flexibility in choosing where to publish within the ACS journal portfolio.  

Today’s Global Open Access Landscape 

Although the OA movement is widely regarded on a global scale, its implementation has varied quite a bit around the world.  

Since the launch of Plan S, Europe has remained a leader in its mandate-driven support for OA. With the implementation of Horizon Europealongside an approved research and innovation budget of almost €100 billion for 2021-2027—the European Union has now become one of the biggest OA funders in the world.  

North America is less driven by widespread, regional mandates, but rather by various discipline-specific funder mandates such as those established by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  These approaches are likely to evolve in the near future with the issuance of the recent OSTP “Nelson Memo,” Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research; this sets out recommendations around public access to research outputs and scientific data that are applicable to all federal research funders’ own public access policies. 

The primary drivers for OA in Latin America have been academic institutions and government organizations rather than commercial publishers. Currently, there is a priority for Green OA, in which the author publishes in a subscription-based journal and places a copy of their work in an institutional or discipline-based repository (known as “self-archiving”). 

China and India currently lead the way in OA publishing for Asian countries, but the movement in Asia overall has been slower than that of Europe or the United States. OA mandates are not as common, and many researchers are still uninformed of the various OA policies and licensing options—more widespread OA resources, as well as additional government funding, may be required to move the needle forward.  

How ACS Supports Open Access Publishing for All 

As more and more authors are being required by their countries or institutions to publish in OA journals, one of the biggest challenges is the rising cost of Article Processing Charges (APCs). Many researchers, particularly those in developing countries and low-income settings, cannot afford the APCs required to publish in an OA journal.  

ACS Publications is fully committed to making OA publishing an opportunity available to everyone, regardless of institution, country, or policy. Read below to learn more about the ways in which we help authors navigate OA requirements and ensure they have the means to publish OA in any of our journals: 

Read + Publish Agreements
Also known as “transformative agreements,” these are agreements in which an institution pays to receive full access to all articles in ACS journals as well as APC credits that allow researchers to publish OA across the entire ACS journal portfolio. Read + Publish Agreements eliminate the burden of cost for the author while satisfying funder requirements and making the research globally available. 

ACS Transformative Journals
All of ACS Publications’ hybrid journals now qualify as Plan S-compliant transformative journals, and many funders will fully cover the publication costs associated with publishing OA in these journals. This support will be offered until 31 December 2024.   

Country Discount & Waiver Policy
ACS provides discounts and full waivers to corresponding authors from qualifying low- and lower-middle-income countries.  

Interested in learning more about how ACS Publications can help you navigate the open access landscape and easily get your work published in our journals? Visit our all-new Open Science Resource Center to get started on your OA journey. 

Visit the New Open Science Resource Center

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