It’s been a long time coming, but last week the Obama administration issued a directive ordering 19 different federal agencies to develop plans for making their research available to anyone under open-access standards, after a twelve-month embargo. The directive applies to agencies with intramural research budgets of more than $100 million, and requires them to come up with policies and OA plans within six months. This is a significant triumph because we’re talking about tens of billions of dollars of scientific and scholarly research.
In other words, the floodgates are opening! U.S. taxpayers – and the rest of the world – will soon be able to read and use most federally funded research for free. They will no longer have to pay exorbitant fees to commercial publishers (who were given copyright control over the research for free) -- or to belong to the knowledge elite who have the privileged ("free") access to the research via the universities with which they are affiliated.
This is a moment to savor. It has been twelve years since the Budapest Open Access Initiative, a 2001 declaration that urged scholars, scientists and publishers to make their research freely available online. And it’s been seven years since the widely emulated open access journal PLoS One (Public Library of Science), was founded, in 2006. There have been countless other skirmishes and battles in the larger movement to make research and scholarship available under OA terms. (Here is a nice ten-year overview of the movement written by Melissa Hagemann of the Open Society Institute in 2012.)