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The Budapest Open Access Initiative (Stevan Harnad) Marcia Tuttle 15 Feb 2002 15:48 UTC

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 15 Feb 2002 14:04:00 +0000
From: Stevan Harnad <harnad@COGPRINTS.SOTON.AC.UK>
Subject: The Budapest Open Access Initiative

Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 09:30:12 -0500
From: Peter Suber <>

The Budapest Open Access Initiative

Today marks the official launch of the Budapest Open Access Initiative
(BOAI), the most important FOS initiative in a long time. This is the
public statement and plan of action that emerged from the conference in
Budapest I attended in early December (and described briefly in FOSN
for 12/5/01). Between the conference and today, the participants have
been drafting the statement and a few other documents to accompany it.
I'm very pleased with the result and very proud to have played a role
in it. Let me give you a quick tour.

The drafters of BOAI represent many perspectives on FOS, many different
nations, and many different FOS initiatives. The experience around the
table came from university research, libraries, philanthropy, and
non-profit and for-profit publishing. You can find the individual
drafters and their affiliations at the bottom of the main document, so
I won't repeat them here. The first point to make, though, is that
while disagreements were plentiful, we all saw that agreements were
more basic than disagreements. This diverse group agreed on a common
plan to achieve FOS.

The initiative endorses the goal of "open access", the term used by
BOAI for what I tend to call free online access. BOAI calls for open
access to peer-reviewed research articles in all academic fields and
the preprints that might precede them. It can easily and naturally be
extended to all digital content that its authors consent to disseminate
without payment.

BOAI endorses two strategies to achieve open access, and supports
experiments with other strategies that might prove effective. The first
strategy is what Stevan Harnad calls self-archiving. Authors put
preprints in institutional or disciplinary archives that comply with
the protocols of the Open Archives Initiative. When their articles are
published in peer-reviewed journals, they also archive either the
refereed postprint or a list of corrigenda (differences between the
preprint and the postprint), depending on the journal's permission
policies. The second strategy is to launch a new generation of journals
committed to provide open access to all their contents. The two
strategies are not only compatible; they are complementary. Putting
them together creates synergy and the acceleration of parallel

Both strategies are sustainable in the long term. We know this because
providing open access costs much less than traditional forms of
dissemination and much less than the money currently spent on journal
subscriptions. The only problem is the transition from here to there.
The BOAI is especially promising because it understands this and
mobilizes the financial resources to help make the transition possible.
George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI), which convened the original
meeting in Budapest, is committing one million dollars a year for three
years to BOAI, and recruiting other foundations to add their support to
the cause.

What makes BOAI special is the way it embraces different approaches and
combines principle, strategy, tested means to the desired end, and

I'm especially pleased with the BOAI's friendliness toward the many
players in the landscape and its focus on constructive steps toward the
goal. The BOAI doesn't demand that existing journals change their
prices or their access policies. We hope they will, and we will even
help pay the costs of converting to a different business model for
journals willing to change. But if not, we'll just pursue our goal
without their participation. BOAI doesn't call for boycotts of any kind
of literature, any kind of journal, or any kind of publisher. It
doesn't call for violations of copyright or even for changes in
copyright law. It doesn't demand, and needn't wait for, any changes
from publishers, markets, or legislation. Scientists and scholars have
all the means within their grasp. The BOAI calls on scientists and
scholars to take up these means and use them, and it invites the
cooperation of all those disposed to help.

My considered judgment is that the primary obstacle faced by BOAI,and
the FOS movement in general, is misunderstanding. Most of the
objections we hear (about copyright, about quality and peer review,
about financing...) are based on misunderstanding. That's good news
insofar as it means that most resistance will melt away when our ends
and means are properly understood. But of course it's bad news if our
efforts to date have not done more to clarify our ends and means. The
BOAI is taking steps to disarm as many objections as possible with a
detailed FAQ. Not everyone will read it, of course. But for those who
do, it will answer 95% of the questions, objections, and anxieties that
similar initiatives have provoked in the past. Of course, FAQ's don't
change the world, and we have other tools for changing the world. But
if our primary obstacle really is misunderstanding, then the FAQ is one
of our most potent tools.

HOW YOU CAN HELP. You can help the BOAI by signing it, persuading your
institution to sign it, and spreading the word about it. A signature
indicates a pledge of assistance and participation. If you [or your
institution] are willing to self-archive your own papers, or submit
them to open-access journals, help launch new open-access journals [or
archives], or any of a number of things listed at the site, then you
[or your institution] should sign. Signatures don't call on others to
act, but demonstrate that someone is acting. The growing list of
signatures is a measure of our strength.

If you have questions about BOAI, send them to me (peters [at]
and I'll try to answer them in the newsletter or the discussion forum.

BOAI Home page

What you can do to help
(Separate sections for reseearchers, universities, libraries, journals,
foundations, professional societies, governments,and citizens.)

(The FAQ and the list of ways you can help, above, will remain open to

See who has signed

Sign it yourself

Open Society Institute

* Postscript. I like the term "open access" and will start to use it
more often in the newsletter. It's not perfect, however. It's short but
not self-explanatory. We decided that this was better than a long
phrase that contained all the needed nuances. ("Free online access" is
more self-explanatory but still falls short; a truly self-explanatory
phrase would be very long.) The BOAI defines the term explicitly, which
frees it to trade off perspicuity for brevity. If the term and its
definition can spread, then we'll have a useful new tool for discussing
FOS issues. --Now all we need is a short term for the body of
literature to which this applies.

* PPS. The term "open access" is already spreading in this context. The
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) supports
both free and affordable scholarly journals, and has now flagged the
free ones on its web list with a bright yellow "Open Access" icon.
SPARC is an institutional signatory of the BOAI, and SPARC's director,
Rick Johnson, is one of the BOAI drafters.

* PPPS. I expected to have no news accounts of BOAI to cite until the
next issue. But here are a few that just came out as I prepare to click

Declan Butler, Soros Offers Access to Science Papers (for Nature)

Ivan Noble, Boost for Research Paper Access (for BBC)

Michael Smith, Soros Backs Academic Rebels (for UPI)

[Alexander Grimwade, Open Societies Need Open Access (The Scientist) ]

[Denis Delbecq, L'abordage des revvues scientifiques (Liberation,
Paris) ]


More to come!

NOTE: A complete archive of the ongoing discussion of providing free
access to the refereed journal literature online is available at the
American Scientist September Forum (98 & 99 & 00 & 01):

You may join the list at the amsci site.

Discussion can be posted to: