This paper is based upon the 2021 Miles Conrad Award Lecture that was given by Heather Joseph at the second annual NISO Plus conference held virtually from February 22–25, 2021. The lecture provided a brief look back at the emergence of the Open Access (OA) movement in scholarly communication beginning with the E-biomed proposal in 1999 that was shortly followed by the Budapest Declaration released on February 14, 2002, through how far it has come in almost two decades.
The author notes that the initial reaction to OA was often just a quick dismissal of it as an idealistic pipe dream and as the idea began to grow in popularity, skepticism changed into hostility. OA was criticized as being too disruptive to the then-existent publishing paradigm. Yet, far from disappearing, the movement towards the open sharing of knowledge steadily advanced. Today conversations about “why” or “whether” to open up the scholarly communication system have evolved into conversations about how best to do it.
The author notes that the Budapest Declaration underscored that the end goal of OA is to empower individuals and communities around the world with the ability to share their knowledge as well as to share in accessing the knowledge of others. She warns that members of the global scholarly communication community must look critically at who currently can participate in the production of knowledge, and whose voices are represented in the “global intellectual conversation” that need to be facilitated. Whose voices are still are left out because structural barriers – be they technical, financial, legal, cultural, or linguistic – prevent them from joining?