Will the Open Access Movement be successful?

Michael Nentwich


No doubt that from the point of view of scholars around the world, Open Access seems to be the obvious solution to the evident problems of scholarly publishing in the present age of commodification. Access to the academic literature would be universally available and hence not restricted to those lucky enough to belong to wealthy institutions that are able to afford all the subscriptions necessary. Furthermore, many believe that only if we have a fully digital, openly accessible archive of the relevant literature, enhanced with overlay functions such as commenting, reviewing and intelligent quality filtering, we will be able to overcome restrictions of the present, paper-based scholarly communication system. Many initiatives have been launched (e.g. the Berlin Declaration), some funding agencies have already reacted by adopting Open Access policies (notably the British Wellcome Trust, but also the German DFG or the Austrian FWF), new journal models are being tested to prove that Open Access is a viable economic model (e.g. BioMedCentral), Open Access self-archiving servers flourish around the world (not least in philosophy) and even high politics has reacted (most recently the European Commission). But still, after a decade or so of initiatives, testing and promoting only a tiny fraction of the available scientific literature is Open Access. It is growing, no doubt, but we are a long way from universal open access. So, will the Open Access movement be successful? Or, put differently, can it be successful? What are the chances that the incumbents - the big commercial (as well as the not-for-profit, associational) publishing industry - will give way to a de-commodified future? Is there a middle-ground where all the players and interests could meet? This paper will contribute to this open debate by analysing recent trends and weighting the arguments put forward in this heated debate.


20th century philosophy; media philosophy; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; author fee; Berlin declaration; copyright law; cyberscience; e-publishing; golden road; green road; open access

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