Research is a fundamental part of human progress. Every year, governments, institutions, and organizations spend billions of dollars to improve our understanding of humanity and the conditions that afflict it. Research has lead to our greatest advancements – in medicine, exploration, communications, and more.
Access to this research, however, is often limited to those with significant resources or with institutional affiliation.
Even further, the ability to expand and build upon this research is impaired by a system that has yet to adapt to the modern era, via the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition:
- Governments provide most of the funding for research—hundreds of billions of dollars annually—and public institutions employ a large portion of all researchers.
- Researchers publish their findings without the expectation of compensation. Unlike other authors, they hand their work over to publishers without payment, in the interest of advancing human knowledge.
- Through the process of peer review, researchers review each other’s work for free.
- Once published, those that contributed to the research (from taxpayers to the institutions that supported the research itself) have to pay again to access the findings. Though research is produced as a public good, it isn’t available to the public who paid for it.
- The government ends up funding - and researchers end up reinventing - the wheel, duplicating studies they don’t have access to rather than building on top of them.
The alternative is open access publishing. Open access is defined as the “free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.”
Increasingly, the institutions, agencies, and organizations that fund research are requiring that the resulting articles and publications be made openly accessible to the public. In the past decade, the number of journals operating under an open access policy has skyrocketed, as has the number of articles published under an open license.
At Creative Commons USA, we’re working to encourage institutions and authors publish their research openly, as well as supporting open journals and encouraging policies that make federally funded research more open.
For more information about different types of open access, open access models, and the state of the open access community, check out: