Open Access

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Open Access (OA) is a movement in Higher Education and Scholarly Research to remove price barriers and copyright restrictions from scholarship. OA is usually defined as the "world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature, completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds" ("Budapest Open Access Initiative," 2002).

University libraries usually find themselves at the forefront of this issue because of the rising costs of academic journals. The cost of journals and journal packages limits a library's ability to purchase a wide range of academic journals, essentially limiting the scholarly communities access to knowledge (see "The cost of knowledge;" and "Open Access"). 

However, limiting access to library materials is not the only issue in the OA movement. Most journal publishers ask for full rights to the articles being published in their journals. Essentially, authors sign away all of their legal rights to their creative work to a publishing company. This means that authors would be infringing on copyright by distributing their own articles to colleagues and students, posting them to their personal websites. They would also need permission from the publishing company if their articles were to be reprinted as a chapter in a book.

Strong OA is usually held to be 1.) Author's retain all copyrights and 2.) Journals are more cost efficient; gaining revenue from advertisments, publishing on a not for profit basis, or by charging a publication fee to authors, their university, or department. The goal of Strong OA is that scholarship would be freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Though Strong OA is ideal, there are a few different options.

OA Options

There are roughly 3 paths to a more equitable relationship between authors, libraries, and publishers:

1.) Gold OA

This is a commitment to only publish in journals which choose to be Open Access Journals. There are a large number of OA journals in every discipline -- to see which journals are Open Access, you can check the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Issues with Gold OA

Are the journals respectable peer reviewed journals?
The answer is that it depends on the journal. Some OA journals are considered to be tier 1 journals, take for example the Philosopher's Imprint which has been ranked as one of the top journals in the field of Philosophy (see "The Highest Quality 'General' Philosophy Journals in English"). However, there are other OA journals which are far less reputable. The solution to the problem is sitting down with your department and colleagues and discussing which OA journals are worthwhile to publish in.

Even if I know that this journal is respectable will my senior colleagues and colleagues in other departments recognize this when I go up for tenure or promotion?

This is an issue at every university with many junior faculty concerned that their senior colleagues will not find the relatively new OA journals to be "real journals." However, proponents of OA argue that OA publications are viewed more and cited more than their non-OA counterparts (see Lawrence 2002; and "The effect of Open Access...").  As the OA movement grows and faculty become more and more aware of OA, this problem should begin to resolve itself.

Also, every year more universities are mandating that their faculty publish in OA journals or submit an addendum to archive their work in an institutional repository (see ROARMAP). Many of these mandates allow for faculty who are unable to find an OA journal of a high enough caliber or they cannot bargain to retain some of their copyrights with the publisher to get a release from University Administration to publish in a non-OA journal. 

If there is a publishing fee, who pays?

The answer really depends on your university's structure and budgets. It is usually either the Author, the University, the Department, or the University Library. Each entity has a good argument as to why someone else should pay. 

2.) Green OA

Authors continue to publish in journals that are not OA, but attempt to retain some of their rights to their articles. By filling out an author addendum or by working with university counsel, authors could bargain to retain some copyright privileges in their article. Usually this is done so that authors could archive some version of their article on a personal website and to distribute the article at their discretion.

Issues with Green OA

Will the author have bargaining power or will the journal simply reject the author's addendum?

This depends on the journal. Some journals let authors retain some of their rights, some journals do not accept any addendums, and some journals will accept revised addendums.

3.) Green OA with publishing in an Institutional or cross-Institutional Repository

Authors submit an Addendum which allows them to publish their article in an Institutional Repository (IR) which is hosted by either their University Library or a Professional Association or both.

Issues with publishing in a repository 

Who funds and maintains a University's Institutional Repository?

Institutional Repositories (IR) are expensive to both start and to maintain. There needs to be a considerable investment in both funds and time. This includes having a dedicated staff to insure proper long-term digital preservation as well as having accurate metadata for easy retrieval. Also, University Counsel will often need to be involved because of the copyright agreements being made between publishers and authors.

Is a small university Institutional Repository really worth having?

It is definitely worthwhile to preserve research and scholarship in a number of different locations. However, it is hard to say if the IR would be searched by researchers outside of the University. Also, because an IR will contain research from every discipline on campus it is mostly populated with articles from disciplines not related to someone doing research in a specific field. In contrast, a discipline-specific repository (such as is generally more useful to someone doing research in that discipline.

Why not just publish in discipline-specific repositories?

Not every discipline has its own repository, so some disciplines will still face a knowledge barrier. In addition, some repositories are more friendly to open access than others. Many require a subscription fee; others are not full-text but rather serve as an index (see below).

First Steps

Before anything can happen on a campus, faculty and administrators need to educate themselves about Open Access. Though it is a growing movement, it is not widely understood. After individuals gain a better grasp on OA, then there needs to be a discussion. Open Access will only succeed if scholars are assured that publications in reputable peer-reviewed OA journals will be supported in terms of tenure and promotion.

When there is strong support from faculty, the next step most universities have taken is the ratification of an Open Access Mandate by the faculty senate. Existing university mandates range quite drastically from the very stringent to the very lenient. Many state their support for OA publications and give directions for all future faculty publications.

Arguably the most successful mandates specifically state that the University supports Open Access and the faculty of the university agree to publish in Open Access Journals or submit an addendum that allows for a version of their article to be published in a repository to all non-OA journals. Many universities choose to give their faculty the option of petitioning that their article be exempt from the OA mandate should the Gold OA and Green OA routes be unsuccessful or insufficient for one reason or another.

Sample Open Access Mandates

Trinity University

Bucknell University

Oberlin College

Harvard University

Princeton University


Association of Research Libraries on Open Access

A concise pamphlet overviewing the importance of Open Access.

Open Access Directory

A wiki compendium of information about open access, including lists of OA journals, blogs, repositories, etc. Hosted by Simmons College.

Directory of Open Access Journals

A directory of OA Journals.

Open Access Overview

A comprehensive overview of Open Access written by a Philosophy professor who is a proponent of the movement. 

ScholarSpace Glossary

A useful glossary covering parts of OA.


Links and resources available below may be useful for those interested in pursuing open access publication or advocating for open access to others in the academic community, to grant-making institutions, or even to bodies of government. Resources supplied here include guides, presentation materials, and handbooks produced by SPARC and other organizations.

SPARC Author Addendum

A precrafted Addendum and helpful information on author's rights.


A Registry of Open Access Repositories with Mandatory Archiving Policies.


A searchable database of publishers' policies on self-archiving of journal articles (either on the web or in an open access repository).

Disciplinary Repositories

AgEcon Search (Free, Full Text)

Repository of full-text scholarly literature in agricultural and applied economics.

ArXiv (Free, Full Text)

Open access to 731,075 e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics.

PhilPapers (Free, Index with Partial Full-Text)

A comprehensive directory of online philosophical articles and books by academic philosophers. Monitors journals in many areas of philosophy, as well as archives and personal pages.

Public Library of Science (Free, Full-Text)

All PLoS material is published under an open access license. Publishes "high-impact research in the life sciences."

PubMed Central (Free, Mostly Full-Text)

PMC is a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM).

Works Cited

"Budapest Open Access Initiative." Open Society Foundations. 2002. Web. 24 Jan. 2012. <>.

"The Cost of Knowledge." The Cost of Knowledge. Web. 25 Jan. 2012. <>.

"The effect of open access and downloads ('hits') on citation impact: a bibliography of studies." The Open Citation Project - Reference Linking and Citation Analysis for Open Archives. Version Last updated 25 November 2011. Open Citation project, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2012. <>.

Lawrence, Steve, “Online or Invisible?” Nature, Vol. 411, No. 6837, p. 521, 2001.
http: //

"Open Access." Open Access. Association of Research Libraries, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2012. <>.

This page was last modified on 10 February 2012, at 19:48. This page has been accessed 5,056 times.