Open Chemistry Position Statement

Chemists Without Borders

Open Chemistry Position Statement


Within the vision of Chemists Without Borders, Open Access to the traditional scholarly, peer-reviewed journal literature is the library, a global library with equal access to our shared knowledge for all. Open Access is necessary to development of equitable access to chemistry education and research opportunities in both the developed and developing world. Chemists Without Borders strongly supports Open Access, as defined in the Budapest, Berlin, and Bethesda statements, and the measures necessary to implement open access, such as funding agencies requiring open access to the results of the research they fund, and educating researchers about Open Access.

Open Source Science promises more rapid advances in research through open sharing of research information at all stages of the reseach process. Open Source Science means more opportunities for collaboration, whether to facilitate Chemists Without Borders projects or provide researchers with more opportunities for participation in international research collaborations. Chemists Without Borders strongly supports Open Source Science within the context of Open Access.

Open Access

Definition (from the Budapest Open Access Initiative), at:

“By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

For the avoidance of doubt, open access from the perspective of Chemists Without Borders includes the freedom to extract data from the full-text, whether singly or in a collection of articles, and the freedom to download the supplemental data.

True Open Access means free availability immediately on publication, or before as preprints. There are many intermediary steps towards Open Access, such as free access to back issues of journals.

There are two main approaches to Open Access. Articles can be made openly accessible on publication by the journals themselves, using one of a variety of business models (open access publishing, or the gold road). Or, authors can publish in subscription-based journals, and self-archive their work in an open access archive or repository (self-archiving, or the green road).

Open Access to the traditional scholarly, peer-reviewed journal literature advances the vision of Chemists Without Borders in several ways. Indeed, with respect to this literature, open access epitomizes Chemistry Literature Without Borders, as it means equal, barrier-free access to scholarly knowledge for everyone, everywhere.

Equity in access to the scholarly literature is a necessary step towards equity in chemistry education. In the short term, Chemists Without Borders is likely to be primarily composed of individuals from wealthy countries helping those in the developed world. The goal of Chemists Without Borders, however, must be a world where no one area is more needy than another, except perhaps temporarily in response to an environmental crisis. In this world, Chemists Without Borders is a global community of scientists where any region could be either a recipient of help, or a helper, depending on the circumstances. Equity in access to chemistry education brings us closer to this goal.

In the short term, more equity in access to the scholarly literature means more partners for Chemists Without Borders in the developing world, more students and faculty from the developed world with the means to participate, and better and more reliable access to the research literature for Chemists Without Borders volunteers in the field.

It has been shown that the research article that is Open Access has more impact, that is, an article that is open access is more likely to be read and cited. If those who research topics of importance to the developing world (and Chemists Without Borders) openly share the results of their research, answers can be found faster. Also, when authors in developing countries share their work as open access, they have more impact; their work is more visible, searchable, and retrievable.

It seems likely that the Open Access impact advantage will enhance the prestige of authors and universities in the developing world, attract further research on the topics of interest to the these authors, occasionally attract the attention of potential business partners, and increase the authors’ chances of attracting funding or opportunities such as international collaboration on research projects. For example, if an author in the developing world publishes their work as open access, a Chemists Without Borders member is more likely to read their work, and this could lead to a partnership on a Chemists Without Borders project.

Open Source Science

Research already in progress is opened up to allow labs anywhere in the world to contribute experiments. The deeply networked nature of modern laboratories, and the brief down-time that all labs have between projects, make this concept quite feasible. Moreover, such distributed-collaborative research spreads new ideas and discoveries even faster, ultimately accelerating the scientific process. Thanks to Jamais Cascio.

There are many approaches to the sharing of scientific information throughout the research process; Chemists Without Borders encourages experimentation with approaches that meet the criteria of open access along with open source. One example is blogging of experiments; there are many other approaches to open source science, and more will be developed as the potential of the world wide web unfolds.

Open source science has a powerful potential to advance research in and about the developing world, as it allows researchers who may not have as much expensive equipment to participate in collaborative research in a meaningful way.


Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities

Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing

Suggested Actions

Educate chemists and chemistry students about open access and open source science, for example through the Chemists Without Borders blog and newsletter.

Create an open archive for chemistry; help develop and support policies requiring deposit of research articles, for example funders’ and universities’ policies (note: some resources – technology, expertise – required).

Write letters to funding agencies supporting open access policy initiatives in development, for example the Federal Research to Public Access Act in the U.S.

Encourage chemists to publish in open access journals and/or self-archive their work. Encourage chemistry publishers to move to open access business models and revise authors’ agreement to facilitate self-archiving.

Endorsed October 12, 2006

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