What is Open Access?
- Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
- Open Access removes price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions). The Public Library of Science shorthand definition —"free availability and unrestricted use"— succinctly captures both elements.
- There is some flexibility about which permission barriers to remove. For example, some Open Access providers permit commercial re-use and some do not. Some permit derivative works and some do not. But all of the major public definitions of Open Access agree that merely removing price barriers, or limiting permissible uses to "fair use" ("fair dealing" in the UK), is not enough.
Some grant and funding organizations have Open Access requirements for their recipients, requiring them to place their research into publicly accessible repositories like PubMed Central. The National Institutes of Health has had an Open Access requirement for grantees since 2008, and recently announced that they will begin holding back funding from researchers that do not comply with this requirement.
Open Access Explained!
Learn about Open Access from PHD Comics and their "Things Explained" series.
Animation by Jorge Cham, Narration by Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen, Transcription by Noel Dilworth
Produced in partnership with the Right to Research Coalition, the Scholarly Publishing and Resources Coalition and the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students
Open Access Resources
SPARC: The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Publishing Coalition has a wealth of information about scholarly communications, author rights, as well as Open Access and Open Educational Resources listed on their "Resources" website.
OpenDOAR The Directory of Open Access Repositories, lists over 2,000 repositories around the world where research and scholarship is available.
Several colleges and universities are adopting Open Access Policies for their campuses. Some of these organizations even voted the policy in with unanimous faculty votes. For organizations that are considering adopting an Open Access Policy, Columbia University Libraries Scholarly Communication Program has put together a template that can be downloaded and adapted for use elsewhere.
Predatory Open Access Publishers
There are some people trying to capitalize on the Open Access movement by charging authors and researchers high publishing fees to be published in journals that may look scholarly - but they are really more just to generate money. Scepticemia has a fantastic blog post that explains "predatory open acccess." It's not always easy to tell what is a predatory journal.
The Association of College and Research Libraries blog (ACRLog) explored "predatory publishing" in April, 2013. Included in their post is information about how to evaluate sources and how to determine if a publication could be considered "predatory." The site Think, Check, Submit can help authors to think about how to find the right publisher for their research.