Open access is the barrier-free access to digital content, whether research publications or data. According to Peter Suber, a well-known OA advocate, open access removes “price barriers” (such as subscription fees) and “permission barriers” (which can include copyright and licensing restrictions) to “royalty-free literature” (i.e. scholarly works created free by authors), making them available with “minimal use restrictions” (e.g. author attribution).
(Peter Suber, Open Access Overview).
Open access in its purest sense would allow users to copy, download, print, distribute, crawl for indexing or repurpose content for legitimate use while giving authors attribution rights and control over the integrity of their work.
Electronic journals are now mainstream. However, until recently web versions of journals have merely perpetuated the print publishing paradigm while controlling access through subscriber authentication. Now, recent developments in open access journals provide alternatives which embrace the peer review required by authors for certification purposes while also making the case for wider dissemination of research. Researchers may choose to publish in an open access journal or publish in a subscription-based journal while retaining author rights to self-archive their work on personal websites or deposit in institutional or disciplinary repositories. Examples of such repositories are the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), Research Papers in Economics (RePec) and the Canadian institutional repositories.
Creative Commons, a non-profit organization, provides free tools to allow authors, scientists, artists, and educators to easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. Authors may use one of several licenses developed by the Creative Commons, such as transfer of non-exclusive rights to the publisher while retaining other key rights associated with the work. Over 250 open access journals in science and technology presently allow authors to use Creative Commons licenses.
A recent project of Creative Commons, Science Commons extends this philosophy to the sciences focusing on publications, licensing and data. The SPARC Canadian Author Addendum provides a balanced approach to copyright management allowing Canadian authors to retain author rights.
(Cartoon included with thanks to Public Library of Science)
Open access has been shown by the Opcit project to provide greater visibility of research with higher citation impact. If open access journals or repositories adopt standards created by the Open Archives Initiative they will be searchable as one large archive irrespective of location. Search engines like OAIster and Google can search across these distributed archives as part of a global knowledge base, a boon to interdisciplinary areas not to mention the developing world. DOAJ is a directory of open access peer-reviewed journals with over 2600 entries. OpenDOAR is a directory of open access repositories. Both can be browsed by subject.
When the costs of dissemination in an electronic environment are only a fraction of print costs, it seems unconscionable for journal publishers to continue to charge extremely high prices for access. The good news is that scholarly publishing is in transition, and a number of new open access options are being offered.
- Some prominent publishers are now offering an open choice option for individual authors; they can make their articles available without access barriers on payment of a fee chargeable to grants or institutions. Author and institutional membership fees are not new to academic circles, although allowing universal access to research publications is a new approach.
- Some publishers provide free access to the electronic version while charging for print; others allow delayed open access after a specified period, generally ranging from 6 months to a year.
- Self-archiving on a website or in an institutional repository can provide increased exposure to a researcher’s work without publication charges. Publishers’ policies regarding copyright and self-archiving are available at SHERPA /ROMEO, courtesy of the University of Nottingham.
- Journal Info is an aid to researchers looking for a journal in which to publish, providing complete information on the journal including open access policies.
Steps are being taken by granting agencies in Europe and elsewhere around the world to ensure public access to publicly funded research. Some countries are considering legislatively mandating open access. In Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has recently unveiled a new policy to promote public access to the results of research it funds. CIHR will require its researchers to ensure that their original research articles are freely available online within six months of publication. The policy is available online at http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/34846.html. A similar initiative from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) seems to have stalled after an initial consultation with researchers. However, we have come a long way since 2001 when Public Library of Science (PLOS) first garnered support from over 30,000 scientists who agreed to publish only in journals that offer open access six months after publication. During this time the open access movement has forged ahead and has become international in scope.
For more information on how you can provide open access to your research publications contact your York University subject librarian.
— Article by Science Librarian Leila Fernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org).