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Open Access

This guide celebrates Open Access, Open Education, and Open Science and Open Data

What is Open Access (OA)?

 Open Access (OA) scholarly literature is online, freely available (to readers), and free of most copyright restrictions (ideally). 

The following graphic describes the key differences between conventional and OA publishing.


A comparison of conventional and OA publishing


In short, the difference between conventionally published scholarship and OA scholarship is in how it is published, not in how it is produced and evaluated by researchers. OA scholarship is copyrighted and licensed in such a way that the content is available for free. (Publishing costs persist, so the primary challenge with OA publishing is how to fund it.)

This guide is about Open Access in the context of academe, where OA embodies a set of principles and practices that support open sharing, equitable and free access to research, and generous use rights related to research, data, scholarship, and teaching and learning materials. By removing technical, legal, and financial barriers to these scholarly outputs (many of which are publicly funded), OA helps advance knowledge sharing and knowledge production. It helps make scholarly content freely available to everyone.

OA also helps fix what many describe as a "broken" system of scholarly communication, where:

  • Authors transfer copyright to publishers and often need to obtain permission to use their own work in the future
  • The public pays twice for research (once to fund it and again to access the results)
  • Libraries have to "buy back" the research and scholarship that researchers, including those at their own institutions, produced and evaluated

Open lock between the words "Open" and "Access"

Why OA?

OA provides benefits both to readers and to authors. You may lose access to your favorite journals after graduation or in between jobs. You may lose access to subscription journals due to library budget cuts. You may be unaffiliated with an academic institution but need access to the scholarly literature. 

OA scholarship is freely available to you.

Are you an author or researcher who would like more readers to be able to access your work? Do you want your research or creative scholarship to make a bigger impact or reach a larger audience?

Publishing your research OA leads to increased visibility of your work, increased citation rates, the potential to drive innovation and global impact, improved public access, and compliance with many funder mandates.

OA Benefits Infographic

OA: Common Misunderstandings

There are several common misunderstandings about OA. Two of the most common are:

When I publish OA, I lose my copyright; I lose control of my intellectual property.

When you publish OA, you keep your copyright (which is not typically the case in conventional publishing). In order to make your scholarship freely open (OA) to readers, you apply an open license to it. This license, usually a Creative Commons license, works with copyright law. You retain copyright and give others "permission in advance" (via the license) to read and use your scholarship in specific ways. Furthermore, every Creative Commons license requires author attribution. When someone uses your openly licensed work, they must give you credit. 

OA scholarship is not peer reviewed or is lower quality than traditionally published scholarship. 

Most OA scholarship is peer reviewed. Some traditionally published scholarship is not peer reviewed. A publisher's peer review policies have nothing to do with whether or not scholarship is OA. Peer review is a separate process, and scholarship quality varies among all publications, whether open or not. 


For more information about OA misconceptions, watch Editage's "Open Access - Myth vs. Fact" videoor read "Busting the top five myths about open access publishing" in The Conversation. This article, "Common myths about open access"  from OAPEN, which focuses on OA book publishing, includes information that also applies to OA journal publishing.



CC-BY logo Except where otherwise noted, this Open Access library guide by Wendy Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License