These trailblazers are paving the way for Open Access

Vincent Tunru
Sep 25, 2017 · 6 min read
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of other initiatives?
  • How can I complement what people are already doing? / preprint servers

Started in 1991, arXiv is the grandparent of all Open Access initiatives, and even predates the Budapest Open Access Initiative by a decade. It allows researchers to share their articles free of charge before it has undergone peer review, typesetting, the whole shebang. It is wildly successful, with practically every article in fields such as physics or mathematics appearing first in preprint form on arXiv.

Funders funding publishers

Another development that I think has potential is that of funders taking publishing in their own hands. F1000Research has worked with first Wellcome and later the Gates Foundation to launch Wellcome Open Research and Gates Open Research, respectively: publishing outlets in which all researchers funded by these foundations can publish their research, free of charge, free for all to read. Even more recently, the European Commission announced plans to launch their own publishing platform, Open Research Europe.

Journals flipping and collective funding

In 2015, the entire editorial board of Elsevier’s subscription journal Lingua resigned to start Glossa: a Fair Open Access journal. Theirs was arguably the most prolific case in a larger movement of journals “flipping”, now mostly organised under the banner of the Fair Open Access Alliance.

And… Sci-Hub

On the one hand, I didn’t want to include Sci-Hub on this list. Sci-Hub is a website that uses credentials it received from researchers at institutions all over the world to download any article its visitors would like to read — whether that article is behind a paywall or not. I’m sure that Sci-Hub has been of great use to many people already, and I’m also fairly confident that it hasn’t (yet?) impacted the publishers’ revenues, despite its dubious legal position. However, Sci-Hub is not a viable future for Open Access publishing. It still relies on the traditional publishers publishing scientific literature, and by extension on the libraries funding them through subscriptions.

It’s not over yet

Despite the fact that Open Access movement has so far not succeeded in liberating all scholarly articles from behind the publisher paywall, the game is not over yet. The initiatives above show that there’s still hope for a future where all research is immediately available to use, without requiring excessive fees for publication.

Update January 2018

I’ve launched Flockademic, an initiative to ease the creation of new preprint servers and, later, the flipping of journals. Read all about it, give it a try, and let me know what you think!


Breaking the Open Access impasse

Vincent Tunru

Written by

Founder of Flockademic


Breaking the Open Access impasse