November 6, 2017 Society

Open Access is growing, for water that’s a good thing

In the wake of a successful Open Access Week, advocates from around the globe are celebrating our progress towards ‘openness’. Open Access, Open Source, Open Data, Open Courseware, Open Universities – ‘Openness’ is popping up all over the place. But why?

Technological advances are a big reason – it’s now incredibly easy to share pretty much anything on the web. Another is awareness – as a community, we’re becoming more and more aware of the potential for ‘Openness’. We’re getting used to the sharing culture, whether it’s music on Spotify, movies on Netflix or rideshares with Uber.

Access to knowledge is a fundamental right. And…it should be free

Sharing research and knowledge is the next logical step. And it’s backed by a pretty lofty ideal. The ideal of ‘Openness’. The belief that anyone, anywhere should have access to knowledge. That we should all be on a level playing field. Sure, scientists at Cambridge should (and do!) have access to cutting edge knowledge and educational material, but so too should NGO’s in Kenya, students in Indonesia, and midwifes in Argentina.

In essence, it’s the belief that access to knowledge is a fundamental right. And that it should be free.

Open Access to scholarly research, as a movement, really started in 2002 with the gathering of a small group of individuals who created the Budapest Open Access Initiative. The ideal was “world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature”. The group sought “completely free and unrestricted access” for everyone from scholars to “curious minds”.

The motivation? To “accelerate research, enrich education” and to “share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich”. And if that weren’t ambitious enough – to “lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge”.

Now, nearly 15 years later, Open Access is a major player in the research agenda and scholarly publishing landscape. There are over 9000 fully Open Access journals and more than 2.5 million OA articles. Over 770 institutions and funding agencies have OA mandates of some kind.

Still, there’s a long way to go.

Open Access & Water

Now imagine applying Open Access to the water sphere. It’s well known that we’re entering an era of unprecedented water scarcity. Already today, nearly 1 billion people don’t have ready access to our most important resource. Not to mention the plethora of other water related issues IWA and researchers around the world are tackling – from water sanitation and hygiene to policy and technology.

Of the over 3 million water-related research articles1, only 0.09% are Open Access

Imagine if everything we knew about water was publicly available – if industry could apply the latest technological advancements in the field, if policy makers could access the latest statistics, if NGO’s could base efforts on a breadth of prior common experience. The potential for water related knowledge is huge. Currently, however, of the over 3 million water-related research articles1, only 0.09% are Open Access.

So why aren’t we more open? Paradigm shifts take time. And in the case of Open Access, money too. It’s one thing to disrupt the status quo, but another to maintain vital infrastructure. Scientific publishing requires quality control measures, peer review, standards, etc. And the money to fund this infrastructure has to come from somewhere. The current solution to the Open Access model is to charge authors a so-called ‘article processing charge’ to publish their article OA. Many of these fees are covered by research grants, libraries or institutional OA agreements. Still, some dedicated authors without access to these resources opt to pay out of pocket. The long term goal and ideal is to divert subscription funds to pay for Open Access or, in the case of some journals, rely on charitable funding.

IWA, Publishing & Open Access

IWA Publishing is proud to be making important water-related research Open Access. We posted our first free-to-read book in 2009 and published our first fully Open Access article in 2010. Since then, we’ve published over 145 OA papers, 32 OA Books and made over 838 papers in the archives of the Journal of Water and Health free-to-read. Authors have the option to publish Open Access in any of our 12 journals. Earlier this year, we transitioned the Journal of Water Reuse and Desalination to completely OA and launched our first new, entirely OA publication, H2Open Journal.

We’re dedicated to forging new paths towards open access for water-related research

To ensure that anyone, anywhere can publish Open Access, we waive our publication fees entirely for all authors in 71 countries on Research4Life’s Group A list. We also grant free access to our subscription articles for researchers in these countries.

In celebration of Open Access Week 2017, we launched a Twitter account dedicated solely to the promotion and dissemination of water-related Open Access content. We’re celebrating along with this year’s theme ‘Open In Order To’, with each of us highlighting our own reasons why we should be moving towards a more open world. This is only the beginning.

We’re dedicated to forging new paths towards Open Access for water-related research, to forming collaborations, building bridges and advancing knowledge. We hope to significantly change the amount of water research that is openly available to people all over the world.

Get in Touch

We constantly seek ways to work more closely with relevant partners to further our OA mission. Please contact us if you would like to learn more about our approach to OA or would like to explore opportunities for collaboration. OA is the wave of the future!

1Based on a search of water-related research listed on Scopus.




To find out more about Open Access why not visit IWA Publishing at the Water and Development Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina (13-16 November, 2017). They will be available to answer questions daily on the IWA Stand #4

Sara Bosshart

Open Access Publisher at IWA Publishing
Sara is the Open Access Publisher at IWA Publishing where she is responsible for developing and implementing a strategic plan for a transition towards Open Access. Sara previously worked for Frontiers where she helped to launch multiple journals, inc... Read full biography