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Open Access

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Open Access Explained

What is Open Access?

The open access movement has emerged in response to a number of factors: growing journal costs and disparities in access to scholarship, the emergence of the internet, as well as the growing number large scale problems that require large and diverse team engagement.

While open access generally refers to published scholarly journal articles, the open movement also encompasses:

  • open data
  • open educational resources
  • open science

These facets of open research impact different communities in different ways, but all contribute an important piece to open scholarship.

At a more basic level, OA applies to published scholarly material, making it available online free of charge to all. OA fits into scholarly communication norms. Just like any reputable journal, OA journals still:

  • peer review
  • are indexed in research databases
  • have copyright agreements

Why Does OA Matter?

Access to Research & Increased Impact

  • Open access publishing makes it possible for more scholars, policy makers, practitioners, clinicians, and the general public to be able to view, cite, and share your work. Your research could have a direct application towards current practices, methodologies, and policies.

Improve Community Engagement

  • Community organizations, clinicians, and practitioners may not have comprehensive access to subscription journals, or the resources to pay for costly copyright fees. Opening research allows for publications to become actualized in the form of policies, treatments, funding allocations, and decisions. 

Accelerate Research

  • More increasingly, research is being done by large and diverse teams spanning across institutions and geographic regions. Copyright agreements often inhibit the open sharing of publications. OA publishing enables equal access to vital information. 


  • Library budgets are remaining the same, while serials costs are continually rising. Institutions are in the position of funding research, and then purchasing it back through journal subscriptions.

Common OA Pathways

Varieties of Open Access

Different levels of openness exist. These are largely dictated by publisher policies and the ways in which published material is accessible. It does not always mean the work is in the public domain; in many cases open access means the work has been assigned a license by its copyright holder granting permissions for others to reproduce and redistribute their work,

Gold OA refers to publications that are immediately 100% free and accessible to all. Some Gold OA journals require the authors to pay a fee to support this model read more under this guide's section on paying for open access.

Green OA refers to publications that are available as pre-prints or final peer-reviewed manuscripts, hosted in an institutional or subject repository, but the copyright of the final published manuscript may belong to the publisher. This model usually does not require authors pay a fee; authors need to discuss this option with their journal.