Opening the archives: a significant development

Significance was launched in March 2004 with a clear remit: to demonstrate the importance of statistics and the contributions it makes in all areas of life. As founding editor Helen Joyce put it: ‘Significance is not intended to be a self-congratulatory advertisement for the statistician, but rather a medium for accessing a profession which much of the general public still consider dull and grey and unfathomable.’

Articles were to be written for a broad audience: not just statisticians, but anyone with an interest in the analysis and interpretation of data. Accessibility was – and still is – our watchword.
 

But while our articles might be easy to read, it hasn’t always been easy for readers to get access to the magazine’s archive – you needed to be a subscriber (either individual or institutional) or a member of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) or the American Statistical Association (ASA).

Almost a year ago now, medical doctor, Guardian columnist and ‘nerd evangelist’ Ben Goldacre asked us why this was. It was a good question. If we want to reach a broad audience, why are we locking content behind a paywall?

Those who follow Goldacre’s writing will know he’s a passionate advocate for the open access movement. In 2007 he wrote: ‘There are some things which are so self-evidently right and good that it’s hard to imagine how anyone could disagree with you. The "open access" academic journal movement is one of those things. It’s a no-brainer.’

Significance is not an academic journal; it’s a magazine. But Goldacre is right: if we want to fulfil our founding remit, open access is a ‘no-brainer’. And so, late last year, the RSS and ASA made the decision to open up the archives of Significance magazine.

As of 1 January 2015, volumes 1 through 10 are available to read, free of charge. You can find links to all our back issue content here. Articles are in PDF format, and can be downloaded for offline reading. We’re also looking at alternative formats to make the material more web- and mobile-friendly.

RSS and ASA members and subscribers will continue to enjoy exclusive access to the latest magazine content. Their support is crucial to the running of Significance and this is our way of saying thank you. However, from this point onwards, all magazine content will be made freely available one year after its initial publication.

We’re confident that you – the reader – will welcome this move as it makes it easier to access and to share all the fun, fascinating and thought-provoking content we’ve published over the years. With an open archive and your help, we’ll continue to demonstrate the importance of statistics and the contributions it makes in all areas of life.