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June 7, 2004
Defining Open Access
This thoughtful piece by Robin
Cook Peek is a must-read for two reasons: it serves as a useful nutshell description of the battle for open access to scholarly publishing and as a demonstration of its urgency. The news hook is that publishing giant Reed Elsevier has decided to allow authors who publish in its scholarly journals to "self-archive" -- specifically, "to post his version of the final paper on his personal website and on his institution's website." Provided, that is, that the final paper is an MS his own word document or text file rather than HTML or PDF downloaded from the official website.
Peter Suber, a leader in the Open Access movement, calls this "the breakthrough that it seems to be." While it may not provide scholars worldwide with the most ready, optimal access to the final, peer-reviewed piece, it nevertheless remains possible for the dedicated student to find, use and cite these materials. At the same time, however, it falls short of the definition for open access formulated by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which advocates for the "free availability on the public Internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself."
Suber is following minutely the discussion flowing from the Elsevier decision, and along the way offers valuable insight on the current state of play. If you haven't already, hop on over to Open Access News and check it out.
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