What is Open Access?
Open access (OA) is the free availability of scholarly journal publications over the Internet. OA has the following characteristics:
- It applies to royalty-free literature, for which authors receive no direct financial compensation.
- It is free of price barriers, such as subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees.
- It is generally considered to also be free of permission barriers, such as most copyright and licensing restrictions (although OA does require that proper attribution of works be given to authors).
It is an emerging model of scholarly communication that promises to greatly improve the accessibility of results of research. Open access will create the conditions for the ‘effective global information system’, called for by Dr Arthur Carty, the former National Science Adviser for Canada’s Prime Minister in a University Affairs article. Dr. Carty described this system as consisting of both infrastructure and “perhaps more importantly a culture of open access and sharing”.
More on Open Access:
- Open Access at CARL member libraries
- Hill Times Op Ed on OA
- OA Backgrounder
- Institutional Repositories
- Resources for Authors
- What researchers say about OA: UBC / McMaster / SFU / University of Toronto / Western /
Over the past several years, scholarly journals have quickly migrated to the networked environment and most scholarly journals now offer electronic editions available over the Internet. But, there has not seen a corresponding reduction in the prices of journals. This is contrary to what has happened with many other types of online content, where the costs of content have decreased as it has gone online. In fact, commercial journal publishers have steeply increased the price of journals in certain fields, to such an extent that some of the larger commercial publishers are reporting profit margins of up to 40%.
Research libraries have struggled to keep pace: The average cost of a serial subscription for the largest research libraries has increased from $89.77 in 1986 to $283 by 2003. This is an increase of 315%, which far exceeds the rise in the Consumer Price Index of 68%.* In the view of many, the rapidly increasing costs of scholarly publications has created an unsustainable system in which it is impossible for any academic institution to adequately support the information needs of their faculty and students. The situation is particularly critical for smaller college and universities, and institutions in the developing world, which are having difficulty maintaining the journal subscriptions they need.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) was one of the first major initiatives in support of open access and CARL was an original signatory of this initiative. The BOAI definition of Open Access, prefaced above, has become the generally accepted definition of OA. However, there are other slightly differently characterizations of open access and the concept of open access continues to evolve.
Open access journals are journals that provide free access to their content by employing an alternative business model to the traditional subscription-based model. Some of the more common types of models for open access journals are:
1. Author-pays model- Publishers charge either the author or author’s institution a fee to publish an article in their journal. For example, BioMedCentral.
2. Subsidized model- government/society grants or membership fees cover the costs of publishing. For example, Canada’s National Research Council journals. NRC journals are free to all Canadians, although a subscription is required for those outside of Canada.
3. Mixed models- there are numerous journals that use a mixture of funding models. For example, the Canadian Medical Association Journals.
For more details about the different types of open access journals, see John Willinsky’s article Nine Flavours of Open Access Scholarly Publishing.
Lund University Libraries in Sweden maintains a Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is a comprehensive list of the academic journals that are freely available over the Internet.
Open access repositories are publicly accessible repositories in which authors can self-deposit their journal articles. There are two basic types of open access repositories:
1. Disciplinary archives are repositories that collect and share journal articles in a particular discipline. One of the most popular examples of these types of archives is the arXiv.org e-Print archive. The arXiv archive is an e-print service in the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, and quantitative biology that is operated out of Cornell University. This archive is extremely well used in the field of physics.
2. Institutional repositories are repositories that collect and share a variety of scholarly material from a single or multiple universities. In the past several years, there has been significant growth in the number of Institutional Repositories both internationally and in Canada.
Elsevier’s self-archiving policy, for instance, allows all its published authors to deposit a final, edited and refereed copy of their article in an open access repository, but only under the following conditions: the published source (that is journal citation) must be acknowledged; the archived paper must link to the journal home page; and, the final pdf version cannot be used.
The SHERPA Project at the University of Nottingham monitors the self-archiving policies of major journal publishers and provides on its website the details and conditions under which an author may deposit their work.
In Canada, as elsewhere, research funding agencies are seriously investigating policies that would mandate researchers to provide open access to their publications.
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics by Heather Morrison (Simon Fraser University), and the Digital & Scholarly Blog by Adrian Ho (University of Western Ontario) both provide good coverage of open access news in Canada.
On October 10, 2007, the University of Ottawa Library Network, in association with the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) hosted Open Access: the New World of Research Communication . An enthusiastic audience of about 110 students, faculty, researchers and librarians attended. The PowerPoint presentations, webcast and audio file are available on the CARL website .
There are, generally, three comprehensive blogs that report , summarize, and analyze the latest news in the world of open access. Tney are:
For a comprehensive list of open access literature, see Charles Bailey’s Open Access Bibliography.