Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement: Budapest

There have been several defining moments in the open access movement. The first of these was the Budapest Open Access Initiative, "a small but lively meeting convened in Budapest by the Open Society Institute (OSI) on December 1-2, 2001. The purpose of the meeting was to accelerate progress in the international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the internet".

3 of the 16 original signatories to the Budapest Declaration are Canadian: Leslie Chan, Program Supervisor for the International Studies program and the Supervisor of Studies for the Joint Program in New Media Studies at the University of Toronto, Jean-Claude Guédon, Professor of Comparative Literature at the Université de Montréal, and Stevan Harnad, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science, Université du Québec à Montréal.

Canada’s involvement in open access advocacy can be traced back to the early 1990’s. In 1991, Jean-Claude Guédon founded Surfaces, the first Canadian electronic scholarly publication. According to Guédon, "[I] began advocating open access as soon as I got involved with electronic publishing and this was because I came to realize that many academic journals were subsidized to the tune of 60-70% of their costs … you can argue that the money to support open access journals was present from the beginning”. What Jean-Claude is referring to is the fact that the majority of the work involved in producing the scholarly literature is contributed by academics and their institutions without financial compensation, particularly the writing of the article in the first place, and providing peer review.

More recently, Guédon has been very active with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and with the Open Society Institute, and gives about 25 – 30 conference presentations every year, worldwide. Guédon's In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow: Librarians, Research Scientists, Publishers, and the Control of Scientific Publishing, a detailed, thoughtful analysis on the history of scholarly communications, has been translated into 5 languages. A few of Jean Claude's other works can be found in E-LIS. Here, you can find The green and the gold: the case for mixing and matching, from Serials Review. This is a profound work, which talks about the two major approaches to open access - the "green" approach, or self-archiving, and the "gold" approach, or open access publishing - and makes a strong case for simultaneously pursuing both roads.

The other two Canadian leaders at that Budapest meeting happen to be world leaders on each of these roads to open access.

The work of the University of Toronto's Leslie Chan illustrates Canadian leadership in the global arena on the "gold" road to open access. Leslie is Associate Director of Bioline International, a not-for-profit electronic publishing service committed to providing open access to quality research journals published in developing countries; helping us to reduce the "south to north" knowledge gap. Leslie is also on the Executive of Project Open Source|Open Access. The object of Project Open Source|Open Access is to promote open access as a form of collaborative peer production. Some of Leslie's works can be found in E-LIS; for more recent works not yet in E-LIS, see the University of Toronto T-Space.

The Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, one of the oldest medical journals from India and now open access online, illustrates both the high quality of the work of Bioline International, and two of the benefits of open access. The author benefits from the greatly expanded access for readers, not only because the article is openly accessible, but also because the Bioline journals are included in key subject indexes. For all of the rest of the world, we have ready access to a valuable journal that we otherwise quite likely could not afford to subscribe to.

The Université du Québec à Montréal’s Stevan Harnad is among the world’s earliest and most vocal advocates of open access, the author of the Subversive Proposal of 1994, moderator of the American Scientist Open Access Forum, and author of the scholarly blog Open Access Archivangelism. While Harnad supports both the green and gold roads to open access, he is particularly known for reminding us that the faster road to open access is green. As Stevan would say, 92% of the world’s publishers have given the “green light” to self-archiving, so there is no need to wait. By doing so, authors will enhance their own research/impact. By making it easier for everyone to access and read your articles, your work is more likely to be read and cited. To find out if a particular publisher permits self-archiving, go to the Sherpa Romeo Publisher Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving.

This post is based on private correspondence with each of the leaders named, mainly from about two years ago. My apologies if not all details are up to date.

This small indication of Canada's early leadership in the open access arena is just the beginning! This is the first post in a series, Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement

Updated December 4, 2006

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