Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Course & Subject Guides

Open Access @ Pitt: History of OA

Here you can find out more about Open Access to research and how to make your scholarship more freely and widely available and usable.

How did the OA movement get started?

The OA movement has two key origins

  • The "crisis" in scholarly communication and publishing
    • Flat to declining budgets for library collections
    • More demand for newer, expensive resources (databases, electronic journals, data sets)
    • Greatly increased pricing for journals and databases
    • Rapid rise in scholarly output (article and book publishing)
  • The rise of the Internet and the Worldwide Web
    • Rapid dissemination of new research
    • Better connectivity between scholars

The higher cost of scholarship, rapid growth in scholarly publishing, pressing demands for scholarly resources, and increased access to research--all have combined to create what has been called the "crisis in scholarly communication," making it more difficult for libraries, universities, researchers, students, and the public to afford and access necessary research articles, books, and other resources.

Growth in Scholarly Publishing

Some statistics on the growth in scholarly publishing--
  • ≈50 million research articles published 1665-2009 (Jinha)
  • ≈1.35 million scientific journal articles published per year (2006 est.) (Bjork, Roos, & Lauri)
  • Average number of science articles per journal increased from 185 to 273 from 1990 to 2009 (Jump)
  • Number of scientific articles indexed by ISI/Web of Science was <600,000 in 1990 & >1 million in 2009 – a rise of 72% (Jump)
  • Bjork, B., Roos, A., and Lauri, M. (2009). Scientific journal publishing: Yearly volume and open access availability. Information Research 14(1), paper 391. Retrieved from
  • Jinha, A. (2010). Article 50 million: an estimate of the number of scholarly articles in existence. Learned Publishing 23(2), 258-263. doi:10.1087/20100308 
  • Jump, P. (2010). The expanding universe of scientific authorship. Times Higher Education Supplement (8 July 2010), 10.

OA: Timeline of a Movement

Did you know . . .

  • That the ERIC database was launched in 1966?
  • That the free e-book Project Gutenberg began in 1970?
  • That the first networked e-mail was sent in 1971?
  • That New Horizons in Adult Education was an early, online, free, peer-reviewed journal, first published in 1987?
  • That the first web page was written in 1990 by Tim Berners-Lee?

The history of Open Access also coincides with the history of networked communication, the Internet, and the Worldwide Web, with scholarship going online from as early as the 1960s.

Check out these timelines and other resources chronicling the history of the Open Access movement.