Soros gift for open access to journals

February 15, 2002

George Soros has given $3 million (£2.1 million) towards an international effort to open access to scholarly research and journals by making them free to read online.

The financier and philanthropist has pledged support to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, launched this week, through his Open Society Institute.

It brings together existing projects that encourage open access, such as the Public Library of Science. Signatories to the BOAI include universities, governments, publishers, libraries, learned societies and scholars.

The founders hope that publishers will sign up and will be willing to experiment with economic models. It suggests they allow authors to retain copyrights and give open access at least to material more than six months old.

The initiative applies to all peer-reviewed research and advocates two strategies: enabling scholars to archive their own work and supporting a new generation of journals committed to free access with no copyright restrictions.

* In a separate move, research libraries around the world with a joint budget exceeding $5 billion have formed an alliance to stimulate open and affordable access to scholarly communication.

The International Scholarly Communications Alliance was created by Paul Ayris, chair of the UK and Ireland's Consortium of University Research Libraries. The CURL said it felt that ways of disseminating research were unsustainable as universities around the world struggled to meet increases in journal prices.

"Global problems require global solutions," Dr Ayris said. "Awareness is growing among libraries. What is needed is an advocacy campaign among academics. Only through partnership with academics can libraries make an impression in the scholarly communications debate."

The ICSA said that over the past 15 years journal price increases had outpaced inflation, leaving libraries unable to provide as wide a range of research material as necessary.

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