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Open Access

There are a few definitions for Open Access (OA), but essentially OA refers to scholarly research that is:

  • Online
  • Free of charge
  • Free of most copyright and licensing restrictions

There are two types of Open Access (OA). There is "gold OA", which refers to OA journals, and "green OA", which consists of repositories such as ScholarWorks.

OA journals ("gold OA")

  • OA journals conduct peer review.
  • OA journals find it easier than non-OA journals to let authors retain copyright.
  • OA journals pay their bills very much the way broadcast television and radio stations do: those with an interest in disseminating the content pay the production costs upfront so that access can be free of charge for everyone with the right equipment. Sometimes this means that journals have a subsidy from a university or professional society. Sometimes it means that journals charge a publication fee on accepted articles, to be paid by the author or the author's sponsor (employer, funding agency).
  • Most OA journals (70%) charge no author-side fees at all. When OA journals do charge fees, the fees are usually (88%) paid by author-sponsors (employers or funders) or waived, not paid by authors out of pocket.

OA repositories ("green OA")

  • OA repositories can be organized by discipline (e.g. arXiv for physics) or by institution (e.g. ScholarWorks for SFA). When universities host repositories, they usually take steps to ensure long-term preservation in addition to open access.
  • OA repositories do not perform peer review themselves. However, they generally host articles peer-reviewed elsewhere.
  • OA repositories can include preprints and postprints of journal articles, theses and dissertations, course materials, departmental databases, data files, audio and video files, institutional records, or digitized special collections from the library.
  • Authors need no permission for preprint archiving. When they have finished writing the preprint, they still hold copyright. If a journal refuses to consider articles that have circulated as preprints, that is an optional journal-submission policy, not a requirement of copyright law. (Some journals do hold this policy, called the Ingelfinger Rule, though it seems to be in decline, especially in fields outside medicine.)
  • If authors transfer copyright to a publisher, then OA archiving requires the publisher's permission. Most surveyed publishers (60+%) already give blanket permission for postprint archiving. Many others will do so on request, and nearly all will accommodate a mandatory green OA policy from the author's funder or employer. However, when authors retain the right to authorize green OA, then they may authorize green OA on their own, without negotiating with publishers.
  • When authors transfer copyright to publishers, they transfer the OA decision to publishers at the same time. Even if most publishers allow green OA, many do not. In addition, many qualify their permission and some add new restrictions over time, such as fees or embargo periods. For these reasons, there is a growing trend among scholarly authors to retain the right to provide green OA and only transfer the remaining bundle of rights to publishers. Some do this through author addenda, which modify the publisher's standard copyright transfer agreement.
  • Because most publishers and journals already give blanket permission for green OA, the burden is on authors to take advantage of the opportunity. This means that authors may publish in nearly any journal that will accept their work (OA or non-OA) and still provide OA to the peer-reviewed text through an OA repository. (Unfortunately, the compatibility of green OA with publishing in most non-OA journals is still one of the best-kept secrets of scholarly publishing.)
  • The two leading lists of OA repositories around the world are the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) and theRegistry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

Excerpts from Peter Suber's “Open Access Overview” (http://bit.ly/oa-overview) on December 16, 2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Databases of Open Access Materials

OAIster is a union catalog of millions of records representing open access resources that was built by harvesting from open access collections worldwide using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Today, OAIster includes more than 30 million records representing digital resources from more than 1,500 contributors.

The Digital Commons Network brings together free, full-text scholarly articles from hundreds of universities and colleges worldwide. Curated by university librarians and their supporting institutions, the Network includes a growing collection of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, working papers, conference proceedings, and other original scholarly work.

*Google Scholar Searches scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources, including theses, books, abstracts, and articles.

Open Access Resources