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Scholarly Communication : Open Access

Open Access Explained

Introduction to Open Access

Open Access (OA) refers to scholarly content that is freely available online, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions to promote sharing, and available to anyone with the technological means of accessing it. There are no charges to access OA material so readers are not limited by their ability to pay. OA promotes a culture of open and more equitable access. With traditional publishing, the cost to access scholarly material continues to skyrocket and subscription price increases often outpace an institution’s ability to pay for access.  OA removes that paywall and makes scholarly material available to everyone. In addition to scholarly articles and books, datasets and educational materials can also be open access. Because OA is more accessible, more people can access, read, and use that information. Authors that chose to publish their work openly, tend to have a greater citation impact than through traditional publishing models.

Open Access

Diagram showing levels of open access. Preprint can always be shared in a green OA repository. Postprint can be shared in a green OA repository after acceptance (sometimes after embargo. Published version can usually only be shared if gold OA or hybrid journal.

Image created by Thomas Shafee shared under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International


Types of Open Access

  • Green OA - includes institutional or subject repositories that provide public access to scholarly content. Often times work found in these repositories are pre-prints, or versions of articles that have yet to undergo finally formatting changes before being formally published. Green OA is important because it provides access to pre- print versions of articles that might otherwise be locked behind paywalls.
  • Gold OA - is the most common type of OA. Scholarly articles are peer reviewed, edited and made freely available online for public access. The content on found on OA peer reviewed journals is high quality and equitable to the content found on traditionally published scholarly journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a list of reputable OA academic journals.
  • Hybrid OA - a combination of traditional and gold OA. Hybrid OA journals have some content that is openly accessible and some that is pay-for-access subscription. Depending on publisher policies, the author may be able to opt to have their article published openly, there may be an embargo period before the article because OA. The submitted articles undergo the same peer review and editorial process regardless of if or when they become OA.

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