Over the past two decades, technological developments have led to dramatic changes in how information is distributed and accessed. The internet has altered how readers expect to receive information, moving from print to online reading. In the context of this growing digital infrastructure, there are calls for increased transparency in scientific research. As free access to information on the internet has become the norm, the expectation that research results (papers) should also be open has followed. This expectation has been reinforced by the following ethical arguments.
- Publicly funded research results should be publicly accessible.
- Research is in the public interest and should be as open as possible to facilitate further research, avoid duplicated effort, and foster collaboration.
- Patients participating in research have a right to access the results.
In response to the increasing feasibility of digital publishing and the growing traction of ethical arguments in support of open access, many research bodies and funders are opting to implement open access publishing policies and publishers have expanded the number of open access options available to authors. The UK Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Commission, the US National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation are notable examples of major private and governmental funders who have, or are developing, such policies.