Skip to Main Content

What is Open Access?

“Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard University Office for Scholarly Communication

Importance of Open Access

Open access is rooted in the ethical principle of information being unchained, supporting the belief that knowledge is an inalienable human right guaranteed to all. John Willinsky explained that open access is founded on the moral imperative that each person should be guaranteed an opportunity to "...exercise [their] right to know what is known." Open access seeks to eliminate or reduce the barriers of cost and copyright that restric access to information and the knowledge it confers. In 2013, a White House memorandum to federal agencies noted scientific research "catalyzes innovative breakthroughs that drive our economy" and lauded the value of open access to research to spur "understanding and exploit discovery." Open access offers researchers around the world access to content that would otherwise be hidden behind pay walls. Here are some resources that provide a more in-depth exploration of the importance and value of open.

The benefits of open access (click on image to expand).

Two Models of Open Access Publishing

Open Access Publishing (Gold): The characteristics of open access publishing are akin to traditional publishing, by which an author submits a work to be peer reviewed and is published at no cost for others to read.  Costs to fund the publication process may be assessed to the author through article processing charges, although many publishers charge no fee.

Open Access Self-Archiving (Green): Green open access involves the self-archiving of research published through traditional journals.  A variety of platforms are available for researchers to self-archive their work, including disciplinary repositories (e.g. ArXiv or PubMed Central) and institutional repositories (e.g. ASU Digital Repository) hosted by universities and organizations.

Why the Colors? - Understanding Gold and Green Open Access

A brief video from the University of Minnesota Libraries explaining gold and green open access, including a review of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Glossary of Terms

Article Processing Charge: A fee sometimes used for funding the publication of scholarly articles in an open access journal. The fee is often covered by a funding agency or the researcher's institution.

Author Rights: The rights retained by the author when entering a contractual agreement with the publisher. Open access encourages authors to negotiate with publishers to retain the rights to control the re-use and distribution of the work.

Creative Commons: A non-profit organization providing customized licenses which permit the author to retain selective rights and waive others for the re-use and re-mix of research.

Embargo: A publication embargo is the duration between the work's publication and the time it is freely available. Designed to protect the revenue of the publisher, an embargo limits access to those who pay the access cost.

Gold Open Access: Research published in a journal that is immediately and openly available when published.

Green Open Access: Posting a version of a published work in an institutional or disciplinary repository, often with a link to the published work. The repository version provides the open access to the work.

Hybrid Open Access: Publishers make an individual article freely available after payment of an article processing charge, while still selling access through subscriptions.

Mining - Data/Text: The process of deriving information from machine-read material, such as using large quantities of data and text to extract information and recombining it to identify patterns.

Open Education: A transformative movement rooted in the principle of supporting high-quality education for all. Open Education Resources are openly licensed, online material designed for teaching and learning.

Open Science: Open Science is the practice of scholarship in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes, and other research processes are freely available under terms that enable reuse, redistribution, and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods.

Postprint: The accepted article after incorporating revisions and edits resulting from the peer review process The article does not include the pagination and type-setting of the publisher's print. Also known as final accepted manuscript or author accepted manuscript (AAM).

Preprint: The first draft of an article before peer review and the accompanying edits. Also known as the submitted version.

Publisher's Print: The final published article in a publisher generated PDF file.

Repository - Institutional/Disciplinary: Commonly associated with green open access. Institutional repositories are managed by a university or organization to curate the scholarly output of the institution's researchers. Disciplinary repositories, such as arXiv and PubMed Central, collect scholarship on specific subjects regardless of the researcher's institutional affiliation.