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A Good Year for Open Access

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Now that 2012 is coming to an end, more and more reviews of the year are beginning to surface.  Overall, the past year has been very good for Open Access. Over the last 11 months there have been many new initiatives as well as new funds in support of Open Access. Moreover, the increasing number of OA publications, suggests that Open Access is becoming a more popular publishing solution for scientists.

There is still time for a more comprehensive summary of 2012, but for now it is worth looking at the study on the growth of Open Access recently posted on “The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics” blog.

First of all, the Directory of Open Access Journals has reported a significant annual increase in new titles. The number has grown from 7328 to 8461, which is an increase of more than a thousand publications in one year. What is more, there are predictions that the number of articles will reach a million in 2013. In comparison, it is astonishing to look back to 2004 when there were only 1404 titles.

More development can be observed with the growth of OpenDOAR, currently listing more than 2200 open access archives – 76 more than in 2011. A rapid increase, considering there were only 843 OA archives 6 years ago.

Moreover, the Directory of Open Access Books, has now works with 35 publishers and it has more than 1200 free monographs published in the Open Access model.

However, these are just a few examples from the many highlights of the year. There are other projects worth mentioning, such as Unlatched Knowledge, which aims to develop collaboration between OA publishers, libraries and authors. In addition to this, there are more sizeable funds readily available for researchers who want to publish in this model – like the recently launched fund by UC San Diego or by UCSF Library. Increasing budgets available from governments or other international organizations also reflect the growing importance of Open Access. This year, the well-known Finch report motivated the British government to set aside an additional £10 million for Open Access. Moreover, the European Union recognised OA not only as an opportunity to an unlimited exchange of knowledge, but also as a way of boosting the economy so that in the next EU budget, ample funds will be provided for this purpose.

Despite the growing importance of Open Access on an institutional level, results from the OAPEN-UK survey show that publishing in this model is still not particularly popular among authors. Although scientists are aware of the existence the OA model, they rarely choose Open Access and still prefer traditional forms of publishing. Moreover, many authors are not yet fully aware of the funds available for OA publishing.

Therefore, even though the last year was generally positive for Open Access, many improvements are still needed and these changes must be instigated systematically – from top to bottom. Without greater involvement from universities in promoting OA, the aim of open science will not be achieved. Individual funds allocated by universities for Open Access are not enough to promote this model. Instead, OA should present more comprehensive solutions. Yet, universities cannot fully achieve this without the support of governments and public funding. Governments must recognize OA as a valuable investment. However, much will depend on the attitude of the scientific community itself, which commonly regards OA publishing as a secondary option. Without the support of scientists, Open Access cannot continue to expand. But in turn, their widespread support heavily relies on decisions from the universities and available funds. Ultimately, these three elements are irrevocably intertwined.

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