The issue of open access has grown from a fringe movement led by a few mathematicians and scientists to an issue that is being debated in academia throughout the western world. Governments are taking notice and the United Kingdom is in the process of seeing a significant change in the manner in which academic journal articles are to be published. The Australian Research Council has recently announced their open access policy.
We are in the midst of a profound change in the system of academic publishing. This is an issue that Australian historians cannot ignore.
What is ‘open access’? It is recognition of the injustice to researchers who cannot access academic journal articles because of the prohibitive fees charged to people who do not belong to an institution with a library which pays the hefty subscriptions. Academics in poorer institutions are not able to access vital research papers thus restricting their ability to conduct the kind of ground breaking research that will benefit humanity. Most research in universities is funded by taxpayers. Those same taxpayers then have to pay again, as much as $30 per article, to read about the research they funded. Open access is about making academic journal articles freely open to anyone.
The Australian Historical Association has written a useful summary of the changes in Australia and how they affect Australian historians which we should all read. The Australian Research Council (ARC) has recently announced their open access policy. All publications arising from ARC funded projects from the beginning of this year must be deposited in an open access institutional repository within twelve months of publication.