What Is Open Access?

Open Access Week 2019 posterOpen Access (OA) is an aspect of scholarly communications that functions as both an advocacy movement and a business model.

As an advocacy movement, OA seeks to remove barriers such that all people, regardless of their geographic location or institutional affiliations, have the same access to the scholarly record. This supports social justice goals by making scholarship accessible to people in developing nations. For a scholar, this could result in more researchers engaging with the scholarship leading to an increase in citations.

As a business model, OA provides two different mechanisms for making materials openly available. First, there is “green” open access through archives and repositories. Most often, this is not the published version of the article, but rather, a pre-print. If you post your article to a disciplinary repository (such as arXiv, BioarXiv, SocarXiv, etc.), you are making your scholarship available through “green” open access. You do not have to pay any money to do this; however, because you’re depositing a pre-print, the manuscript has not yet undergone a peer-review process.

The other mechanism is called “gold” open access. Gold open access is achieved by either publishing in a fully open access journal (Public Library of Science is an example of a fully OA publisher) or a traditional subscription journal that allows for gold open access articles (commonly called “hybrid” journals). They help facilitate the peer-review process and the version of the article that is open is the final, published version. This model of open access almost always requires that the author (via grant funds or institutional funds) pay an article processing charge (APC). These charges average around $3,000, but can vary by journal and discipline.

Open access is continuing to gain support as more research funders and policy-makers endorse these new models of publishing. OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance.

Learn more about open access at the Brandeis Library’s Publishing Support LibGuide.