A little less than a year ago IFLA’s Governing Board issued an updated statement on Open Access: ‘10 years of the IFLA Open Access statement: a call to action’.  

This update was timely. Much has changed since the previous IFLA position on the topic, which was already more than 10 years old.   

It is an area which has seen so much dynamism, so much work by colleagues across the field both to advocate for and make a reality of the promise of Open Access. 

Moreover, it has also become an area of focus at the intergovernmental level, with the approval of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science in 2021. IFLA, alongside sister library organisations, contributed actively to the drafting process.  

In addition to being timely, the statement also recognises key trends and challenges in the drive towards Open Access (OA). 

There is the obvious need to accelerate the spread of OA, so that no research is needlessly held behind paywalls. There is also growing awareness of how vital it is to focus on inclusion. We are seeing more and more that some models risk replicating divisions in the world, replacing barriers to access with barriers to publishing.  

Overcoming this challenge, importantly, is likely to require a variety of approaches, each suited to its own context, rather than a single global approach. We need therefore to value this diversity  and promote exchange and learning. 

A connected issue is around the way in which OA interacts with the interests and needs of indigenous peoples. The Statement recognises that ‘open at all costs’ is not a suitable approach, and that we need to respect and engage, rather than imposing.  

There is also the recognition that access on its own is not enough. There needs to be a guarantee of the possibility for onward use, with the Statement recommending the uptake of FAIR (free, accessible, interoperable and reusable) principles in Open Access publication.   

Despite the challenges to overcome, the Statement clearly remains a reaffirmation of the importance of OA. Indeed, it underlines that this needs to be seen in the context of rights, and in particular the rights of access to information as part of freedom of expression and to benefit from scientific progress.  

In parallel, it highlights how OA can benefit authors, notably when they are able to retain rights over their own work, rather than having to sign them away to publishers.  

Finally, the Statement provides a reaffirmation of why OA matters by placing it at the heart of efforts to drive sustainable development, both reflecting the explicit reference to access to information in Sustainable Development Goal 16.10, and the broader role of science and research in the UN 2030 Agenda. 

We encourage you to take a look at the Statement, and use it in your own reflections and advocacy. We’re also keen to hear your ideas on how IFLA can best contribute to wider library efforts to drive OA forwards, for the benefit of our field and the communities we serve.  

IFLA’s own OA Working Party continues to oversee follow-up and looks forward to welcoming you at an open session at this year’s WLIC. This will be an opportunity not just to talk about the statement, but also to reflect on work already undertaken around OA vocabularies, and the completion of IFLA’s own shift to OA.

Ellen Tise, Susan Reilly, Fiona Bradley 

IFLA Open Access Working Party