'Open Access' Movement Wins Another Battle

Shortly after publishing giant Elsevier withdrew its support of the Research Works Act (RWA), its Congressional sponsors pronounced the bill dead. The proposed legislation would have done away with federal policies, like the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) public access policy, that requires recipient's of federal research grants to post their peer-reviewed findings online in open access forums.

Open access advocates have hailed the move as a victory for their movement. The bill's sponsors, Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY),  now acknowledge that they are seeing continuing growth and support for open access publications on all fronts. They recognize that this new and innovative model appears to reflect the growing wave of the future.


Open Access can be defined as the practice of providing unrestricted access to journal articles, books, and other literature via the Internet. These materials are generally made available to researchers and other readers at no cost, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

“By open access, we mean its immediate, free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full text of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software or use them for any other lawful purpose…”   -  See The Budapest Open Access Initiative

While the growing 'Open Access' movement traces its history back to the early 1960's, it really became much more prominent in the 1990's with the burgeoning Information Age and the spread of the Internet.

In 1997, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) made Medline, the most comprehensive index to medical literature on the planet, freely available in the form of PubMed. Usage of this database increased a tenfold when it became free, strongly suggesting that prior limits on usage were impacted by lack of access.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) created in 1998 was one of the first Open Access journals in medicine,  publishing its first issue in 1999. Today there are hundreds of journals and other publications of health information and research findings.

One of the arguments for public access to scholarly literature is that most of the research is paid for by taxpayers through government grants, who therefore have a right to access the results of the research they have funded.

"In a victory for science, and those who favor open access for the easy dissemination of scientific results to the public and scientists around the world, Elsevier has withdrawn support for the Research Works Act."   -  See ScienceBlog.Com, February 27, 2012

Open Access Publications – Healthcare Examples

Check out the following links to a few selected 'Open Access' health information and research web sites, resources, publications, and more:

  • Bentham Open Access - Over 230 peer-reviewed open access journals covering all major disciplines of science, technology, and more.
  • BioMed Central - Publisher of 220 open access, online, peer-reviewed journals spanning all areas of biology and medicine.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) - A directory of a wide range of freely available, online Open Access Journals covering the arts and sciences.
  • Encyclopedia of Life - Providing free and 'open access' to knowledge about life on Earth.
  • Health Education Assets Library (HEAL) - A digital repository of images, video clips, animations, presentations, and audio files that support health care education.
  • OER Commons Textbooks - Information about open textbooks offered through Open Education Commons (OER).
  • PubMed - More than 21 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
  • World Digital Library - Providing free and open access to historical documents related to medicine from around the world, coordinated by the Library of Congress & UNESCO.

For those with a growing interest in the topic of 'Open Access', take the time to visit the web site of the following organizations, e.g. Connexions, Creative Commons, Electronic Information For Libraries (EIFL), Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC),and the UNESCO Global Open Access Portal.

The bottom line, patients benefit when their doctors, researchers,  and other health care professionals have access to the latest health information and research findings. Open access speeds research progress, productivity, and knowledge transfer which in turn often leads to new discoveries that ultimately benefit everyone.  The 'Open Access' movement is not going away. It will only continue to grow over time.

For more information and news about open access in healthcare, open this link to Open Health News.