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Magazines > Information Today > January 2004
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Information Today
Vol. 21 No. 1 — January 2004
Letter to the Editor
by Hugh McKellar

The Politics of Open Access

[This letter was inspired by a recent article in USA TODAY by Dan Vergano;]

Today, there are 24,000 research journals (across all disciplines and languages, worldwide) that publish about 2.5 million articles per year. There are currently about 600 open-access journals ( that publish about 75,000 articles per year. So what about access to the 2.4 million articles for which there exists no suitable open-access journal? Should researchers wait for 23,400 more open-access journals to be created one by one? It's likely to be a long, long wait!

Yet, there is another way to provide open access, and that is for the authors of those 2.4 million articles in those 23,400 journals to self-archive them on their own institution's Web site. That will make them all open access overnight.

Each year, there are already three times as many articles that are made open access through self-archiving than through open-access publishing. And 55 percent of the 24,000 journals, though not yet ready to take the risk of becoming open-access journals, are ready to serve the interests of research and researchers by formally supporting self-archiving by their authors. Many of the remaining 45 percent of journals will also agree if asked.

So why are we talking only about open-access journals, instead of providing open access to at least 1.2 million more articles a year? The longer we wait, the longer and bigger will be our growing daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly loss of research impact because of access-denial to would-be users worldwide (a 336-percent impact loss, according to Lawrence in Nature 2001).

This represents a needless cumulative loss of research progress and productivity for researchers, their institutions, their funders, and ultimately for the taxpayers who fund the funders.

(For more information and a slide show, go to

—Stevan Harnad
Centre de Neuroscience
de la Cognition (CNC)

Université du Québec à Montréal

Montreal, Quebec

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