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News from the open access movement

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007: the year of openness

Glyn Moody, Word of the Year: Open, Linux Journal, January 1, 2008.  Excerpt:

The beginning of the year is traditionally a time to look back, and, for the brave of heart, to make a few predictions looking forward. Lacking the requisite bravery, I'll just quote something that the Economist wrote recently:

Rejoice: the embrace of “openness” by firms that have grown fat on closed, proprietary technology is something we’ll see more of in 2008.

Now, had this "fearless prediction" been made a year ago, I would have been impressed, because 2007 has turned out to be the year when everyone, it seems, wants to be open.

For example, hard as it might be to believe, Microsoft actually became an open source company in October last year, when two of its licences were accepted by the OSI as meeting the necessary criteria to be blessed with its approval. But the high-tech company that has beaten the “openness” drum more than any has been Google....

First we had Open Social....

Then we had Google's Android: “the first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices” ....[Then there was open access to wireless spectrum, first from Google and then Verison.]....

Some have argued that Verizon's apparent conversion to wireless open access is more apparent than real, but only time will tell. Happily, the same cannot be said about one of the last – and most important – acts of openness that 2007 brought us: news that all research funded by the US National Institutes of Health would finally be made available as real open access:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

Although the battle for open access to this US research has had a rather low profile in the world of open source, this new legislation mandating it is as important to its own field – one, be it noted, hugely inspired by open source - as anything that's happened in free software this year.

Given this crescendo of openness during 2007, I think that the Economist's expectation that we will see a further “embrace” of it in 2008 is not so much a daring prediction as a dead certainty.