About Open Access

The Cost Crisis

The rise in scholarly journal prices over the last two decades means that most universities can no longer afford subscriptions to all of the journals that their faculty and researchers need. Even if a journal is available online this does not mean it is freely available: university libraries pay large subscription fees to allow their academics to easily access journal materials online. Price rises that are many times the rate of inflation continue to be imposed each year, further restricting access to journal articles. The situation is worse in the developing world, where journal subscription prices mean that many institutions simply cannot afford access to up-to-date research.

Open Access is…

If an article is Open Access it can be freely accessed by anyone in the world using an internet connection. Advocate Peter Suber adopts the shorthand definition “free availability and unrestricted use” to characterize the Open Access movement. This means that the potential readership of OA articles is far greater than for articles where the full-text is restricted to subscribers. Evidence shows that making research material OA increases the number of readers and significantly increases citations to the article. Proponents also argue that OA promotes the democratization of information and allows the same research to be made available to all communities, regardless of economic boundaries by removing access restrictions.

How Does OA Work?

Open Access proponents recommend two complementary strategies:

I. Self-Archiving:
Scholars deposit their refereed journal articles in open electronic archives (self-archiving) and institutional repositories. When these archives conform to standards created by the Open Archives Initiative, search engines and other tools can treat the separate archives as one. Users then need not know which archives exist or where they are located in order to find and make use of their contents.

II. Open Access Journals:
Many scholars are also focused on launching a new generation of journals committed to open access, and helping existing journals make the transition to open access. These new journals will no longer invoke copyright to restrict access to and use of the material they publish. Because price is a barrier to access, these new journals will not charge subscription or access fees, and will turn to other methods for covering their expenses.

OA and Peer Review

OA does not affect peer-review; articles are peer-reviewed and published in journals in the normal way. OA archives and repositories supplement and do not replace journals. Some authors have feared that wider availability will increase plagiarism. OA proponents make the case that the opposite is true: when material is freely available the chance that plagiarism is recognized and exposed is that much higher.

Portions of this text were amended from “What is Open Access” on the Sherpa website at http://www.sherpa.ac.uk