Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A rights-based approach to OA

Gavin Yamey, Excluding the poor from accessing biomedical literature: A rights violation that impedes global health, Health and Human Rights, 10, 1 (2008).  Excerpt:

...The full text versions of most biomedical studies — an essential treasury of life-saving knowledge — are locked away behind access barriers. These access tolls bring enormous profits to the traditional corporate publishing industry, but at the same time make it impossible for many people worldwide to access the biomedical literature. The imposition of such tolls arguably violates the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right “to share in scientific advancement and its benefits” (Article 27, section 1).

In this article, I take a rights-based view of this current crisis of restricted access to the results of scientific and medical research. Such research is conducted in the interests of the public, and yet the results are largely kept out of the public domain by traditional corporate publishers who own them, subject them to extremely tight copyright restrictions, and sell them in a market worth about US$5 billion. The results of biomedical research have unfortunately been privatized, monopolized, and concentrated in the hands of a tiny number of multinational corporations.

This article considers how exclusion from accessing the biomedical research literature harms global public health. I argue that this literature should be considered a global public good and base my argument upon long-standing and recent international declarations that enshrine access to scientific and medical knowledge as a human right. I present an emerging alternative publishing model, called open access, and argue that this model is a more socially responsive and equitable approach to knowledge dissemination. I situate open access publishing within a broader movement that has emerged in the digital era to create a public “knowledge commons,” which can play a crucial role in supporting an informed citizenry in its efforts to promote human rights....

Comment.  This is the most careful rights-based argument for OA that I've seen, and the only one that ties the argument closely to relevant provisions of international treaties on human rights.