The United States has a rich history of open-access (OA) initiatives. In 1969 Americans built ARPANET, the direct ancestor to the internet, for the purpose of sharing research without access barriers. In 1966, before ARPANET and well before the internet and web, Americans launched the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and MEDLINE, probably the first OA projects anywhere. ERIC and MEDLINE are still online and going strong, ERIC hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, and MEDLINE by the U.S. National Library of Medicine in the Department of Health and Human Services.
To fit the large story of OA in the United States into my allotted space, I’ve decided to focus on the ten most important current OA initiatives. This meansomitting important historical initiatives that are no longer current, such as David Shulenburger’s National Electronic Article Repository (NEAR), Harold Varmus’ E-BioMed (although this survives in the form of PubMed Central), and Martin Sabo’s Public Access to Science Act.
It also means omitting many important current initiatives, such as ERIC and MEDLINE, the Astrophysics Data System (ADS), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, Google, Highwire Press, the Information Access Alliance (IAA), Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (LOCKSS), the National Academies Press (NAP), the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), the Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library (NCSTRL), the Networked Digital Library of Thesesand Dissertations (NDLTD), Ockham, the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), OAIster, Perseus, Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia, the U.S. contributions to the international genome project and HapMap, and the many OA projects from the Library of Congress, the National Science Foundation, and branches of government beyond the Department of Health and Human Services.
I’m glad to celebrate the U.S. contribution to OA. But science and scholarship are international, and OA initiatives worldwide are unusually collaborative. National boundaries matter much less than disciplinary differences, and OA activists in different countries are much more allies than rivals. If one country has an OA success, OA proponents in other countries will want to spread the success as quickly as possible; if one country suffers an OA setback, OA proponents elsewhere will want to see it overcome. (source: Digital Pylon)
If OA activists feel urgency, it’s not the urgency of competition but the urgency to implement this beautiful solution to the serious problem of costly and limited access to research. We’re all conscious that OA to one country’s literature benefits researchers worldwide and setbacks to OA in one country are setbacks to researchers worldwide.
Peter Suber is the Open Access Project Director at Public Knowledge, Senior Researcher at SPARC, and Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College.
This is a chapter in Neil Jacobs (ed.), Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, Chandos Publishing, 2006