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Open Access and Open Education Resources

What is Open Access?



Open Access logo PLoS white

Open Access (OA) refers is a publishing model that allows the free (to the reader) access to scholarship and data.  Open Access journals generally maintain high publishing standards and use peer review in the publishing process.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative Declaration defines Open Access journals as those that provide "free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself."

For more information, see Peter Suber's overview of Open Access.

Green vs Gold

There are generally two basic types of Open Access:

"Gold OA" refers to journals that are Open Access, and provide access to the journal articles on the internet for anyone to access for free.  Examples include BioMed Central and PLoS (Public Library of Science).

  • There may be an embargo period where the article is available for sale, but not freely available.
  • Not all OA journals require an author fee, and there are different business models for OA publishers, both non-profit and for-profit.

"Green OA" refers to archiving in repositories of articles, generally deposited by the author, with either a disciplinary affiliation (like arXiv for Mathematics and Computer Science) or an institutional affiliation (like Idun for Augsburg).

  • Depending on the journal policies, these repositories generally have preprint (before peer review) or postprint (after peer review) versions of the articles, not final published and formatted versions.
  • The journal may require an embargo period before the article can be publicly available

There are hybrid forms of Open Access, like a journal may have an OA option per article.  Some publishers have "free access" articles on their website without a clear OA policy, making it unclear what their status is. Available for free does not mean Open Access.  There is a growing color-based nomenclature for the different forms of Open Access, including bronze, black, and diamond.

Why does it matter for you?

There are a number of benefits to Open Access journals:

  • Visibility of your research:  There seems to be a citation advantage for publishing in OA journals.
  • Library Budgets:  Library budgets have been flat for years, while journal prices increase by 4-5%/year.
  • Re-use:  Open Access journals and articles can be re-distributed (for instance in your Moodle site), and can be a type of Open Education Resource.

There are also some pitfalls:

  • The number of OA journals varies widely by discipline.
  • There are "predatory journals" that don't follow true peer review and only exist to scam authors.  Check out the publisher before sending your manuscript.  Use the Directory of Open Access Journals and Sherpa/Romeo to investigate the journal.