AMS Primer on Open Access


Over the past several years, traditional models of journal publications have been scrutinized, and new models of “open access” publishing have been launched. The AMS has made changes to its family of journals, and has been active in policy discussions on this issue with government officials. I have been working with AMS Director of Publishing Robert Harington on this issue. Robert has written a very informative introduction to open access. Below appears the Introduction; you can read more (and also find a one-page summary of the AMS’s position on open access) at our website. These are both found at the bottom of our page on Office of Government Relations collaborations and position statements.


Open access (OA) refers to published scholarly content (such as journal research articles, and books) made openly available in online digital form. This content is free of charge at point of use, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions, and free of technical or other barriers to access (such as digital rights management or requirements to register to access).

Communicating and sharing discoveries is an essential part of the research process. Any author of a research paper wants it to be read, and the fewer restrictions placed on access to those papers means that more people may benefit from the research. In many ways, the OA movement is very much in line with the shared mission of researchers, scholarly societies, and publishers.

Journal publishing programs perform many services for researchers including peer review, communication, and career advancement. In society publishing programs, revenue from journal publishing directly supports the important work societies do on behalf of their scholarly communities.

How do we maximize the dissemination of knowledge while at the same time maintaining both a high level of quality and a sustainable financial future for our professional society, the AMS?

The OA movement can be traced to a letter from the year 2000, signed by around 34,000 researchers, demanding publishers make all content free after 6 months. The signatories of the letter said they would boycott any journals refusing to comply. In 2002, the accepted definition of OA was encapsulated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration.

While the threatened boycott never materialized, an antagonistic tone was set, and this has marked much of the discussion around OA to the present day. There has been a lot of unproductive argument and invective, rather than efforts to find common ground. Unfortunately, advocacy for rationale discourse has floundered, leading societies such as the AMS to consider how to tread independently a path of balance and reason.

Click here to continue reading about open access categories; the benefits, risks and politics of the various models; and the AMS recommendations.

About Karen Saxe

Karen Saxe is Director of the AMS Office of Government Relations which works to connect the mathematics community with Washington decision-makers who affect mathematics research and education. Over many years she has contributed much time to the AMS, MAA, and AWM, including service as vice president of the MAA and in policy and advocacy work with all three. She was the 2013-2014 AMS Congressional Fellow, working for Senator Al Franken on education issues, with focus on higher education and STEM education. In Minnesota she has served on the Citizens Redistricting Commission following the 2010 census and serves on the Common Cause Minnesota Redistricting Leadership Circle. She has three children and, when not at work especially enjoys being with them and reading, hiking and sharing good food and wine and beer with family and friends.
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