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Scholarly Publishing and Open Access: About Open Access Publishing

Open Access

Open access refers to freely available, digital, online information. Open access scholarly literature is free of charge and often carries less restrictive copyright and licensing barriers than traditionally published works, for both the users and the authors. 

While OA is a newer form of scholarly publishing, many OA journals comply with well-established peer-review processes and maintain high publishing standards. For more information, see Peter Suber's overview of Open Access:

Scholarly Publishing

Scholarly Publishing is the system through which research results and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use for other scholars, learners, and the public good.  The system is in a state of rapid flux and evolution, driven by new information technologies, low marginal costs of online distribution, and changing reader expectations.  

Authors have found new and creative ways of disseminating their scholarly work.  Over the past decade, Open Access has become central to advancing the interests of researchers, scholars, students, businesses, the public, and librarians. Increasingly, institutions that support research — from public and private research funders to institutions of higher education — are implementing policies that require researchers to make articles that report on research generated from their funding openly accessible and fully useable by the public.  

Scholarly Publishing has become an overarching term used by academic libraries to describe a suite of services that support academic researchers and authors - open access publishing, institutional repositories, electronic theses and dissertations, authors’ rights and copyright advising, research data management, digital preservation, open educational resources, and support for the tools of digital scholarship.


Open Access Publishing Explained

About Open Access Policies

Hundreds of public and private universities in the U.S. and other countries have open access policies, including the University of California, the University of Minnesota, Duke, MIT, all of Harvard’s 9 schools – and within the last year the University of Arizona and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. For a list of universities and funding agencies with open access policies, see the Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies (ROARMAP)

What are the purposes of an open access policy?

  • Benefits to Authors. Open access works are more easily found and accessible via tools like Google Scholar than those made available solely via traditional toll-based methods. This results in greater visibility, as well as a well-documented “open access citation advantage.” In addition, under the policy authors retain rights to use their work in teaching or future scholarly work that might otherwise be exclusively and unnecessarily assigned to publishers.
  • Benefits to the University. Open access policies promote the value of institutional research and scholarship to funding agencies and the taxpayers. In addition, OA policies serve to highlight universities' roles as a national and global resources for positive change through education and research.
  • Public Benefits. Open access policies make the results of university research available to individuals who do not have access to academic journals that may be prohibitively expensive. This wider access would be expected to accelerate discovery of new ideas, allow a global audience to engage with the scholarship of the university and allow instructors to make use of materials for teaching at no cost. Wider availability of research articles democratizes information and spurs further innovation and progress.
  • Serves as a Catalyst for Change in Scholarly Publishing. Under the current unsustainable publishing model journal prices have increased at 5 times the rate of the Consumer Price Index within the past 15 years, while major journal publishers limit journal cancelations by “bundling” desirable and undesirable titles together – thus strictly limiting cancelations. At the same time, authors are often required to transfer copyrights to publishers and accept restrictions on common practices like making their work available on the web or using it in classes. The rate of transition from a toll-based to open access publishing model is unpredictable, but an open access policies supported by faculty members not only allows faculty authors to retain extremely broad use and reuse rights with a minimum of effort, it also strengthens the universities' positions negotiating with publishers both for authors’ rights and future subscription licensing terms.

Types of Open Access Article Publishing

Green OA - Refers to self-archiving of the pre-print or post-print article manuscript in repositories.

Gold OA - Refers to articles in fully accessible OA journals.  Gold open access journals are supported by author-side article processing charges (APCs).  Gold open access journals are not subscription based and charge an APC as a means of covering the costs of publishing.  The funding model changes from “reader pays” to “author pays.”

Hybrid OA - Refers to subscription journals that offer the option for authors to make individual articles open access (freely available to everyone) by paying an APC fee.

Directory of Open Access Journals

Suggested Reading: "Open Access" by Peter Suber

Harvard University's Peter Suber is one of the leaders in the open access movement.  His book, Open Access (published by MIT Press in 2012), provides an excellent overview of open access publishing and its benefits. This is an open access book and can be downloaded or read online for free.

unpaywall: find open articles

unpaywall is a database of over 25 million open articles, available to all without charge. unpaywall harvests open access content from over 50,000 publishers and repositories, and makes it easy to find and use open scholarship.