Re: Definition of Open Access

From: Peter Suber <peters_at_EARLHAM.EDU>
Date: Fri, 30 Jun 2006 16:50:22 -0400

At 08:13 AM 6/30/2006, Stevan wrote:

      Dear Matt,

      I certainly don't want to compete for priority for such a
      banal thing
      as the name coined to designate toll-free online access, but
      I am
      surprised by your suggestion that PLoS or BMC had coined OA
      BOAI! Jan Velterop of BMC and Mike Eisen of PLoS were there
      at the
      Budapest meeting in December 2001, and part of the drafting
      group that
      coined the term "Open Access" in the December-February
      drafting period,
      but I don't recall any suggestion that the term already
      existed and
      was in use. (That doesn't mean it wasn't, of course; indeed,
      it's almost
      certain that others -- including electricity grid and
      telephone companies,
      had been using "open access" in other senses before.)

      I have checked my archive of the drafting of the BOAI, and I
      note that Peter
      already used the term "Open access" in his first draft of
      December 6 2001,
      4 days after the Budapest meeting. I also vaguely remember
      that we
      deliberately chose "Open Access Initiative" in order to
      resonate with the
      "Open Archives Initiative," which had already generated the
      OAI metadata harvesting protocol, and the very notion of
      "Open Archives" that, along with the Internet itself, is what
      made OA

      There is also an archive of the moment when the Open Archives
      first settled on "Open Archives" (in place of "UPS") in 1999
      (the term
      was coined by Herbert van de Sompel).

      Peter: Do you have a better recollection of how we settled on
      OA, and when?
      Was it perhaps during the Budapest meeting itself? (Perhaps
      Jan and Mike
      can recall?)

I remember that we had trouble finding a good term.  I'd been using "free
online scholarship" (FOS) for my newsletter, but not even I was
comfortable using FOS for the concept we were defining.  One problem we
faced was that no existing term, except perhaps FOS, was closely
associated with this concept or served as a term of art.  I don't
remember Mike or Jan or anyone else saying that "open access" already had
that kind of status.  On the contrary, I think we all agreed that we had
to pick a term from scratch.  We also faced a dilemma:  all the
self-explanatory terms were very long and none of the short, catchy terms
were self-explanatory.  In the end we picked a short and catchy term
("open access"), gave it a clear definition, and hoped that the
definition would spread along with the term.  In that respect I think we
were somewhat right and somewhat wrong.  The BOAI definition may be the
best-known and most influential definition today, but it's not the only
one.  I do believe that the BOAI was the first to make "open access" the
term of art for this concept, even if the same term was used previously
here and there for roughly the same purpose.  Likewise, I believe that
all the post-BOAI definitions are, not accidentally, variations on the
theme of the BOAI definition. 


Peter Suber
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Author, SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Author, Open Access News blog
Received on Fri Jun 30 2006 - 21:56:39 BST

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