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MUShare & Scholarly Communication

Open Access

"Open access" (OA) is a term that describes the movement away from the traditional publishing model to one using open access as a means of information dissemination. Authors or researchers using OA will use the Internet as the main space to publish their work, typically free of charge, with limited or no copyright and licensing restrictions typically associated with commercial publishers.  

Open access places just as much importance on peer review for its evaluation of scholarly literature, with the addition of greater dissemination of reviewed works due to fewer access restrictions.  Access is generally provided either by including works in an institutional repository or open access archives, or in a separate open access journal. 

Though free to access, delivery of open access content is not without cost. Server space and staffing time require expenses to maintain an OA platform, the price of which varies depending on whether a journal or repository is chosen. The greater aim of open access in not necessarily to find ways of eliminating the high cost associated with traditional publishing, but rather reducing the cost in connection with more widespread dissemination.

Types of Open Access

Open Access publishing is evident in a variety of models. Generally, there are three categories into which OA can be classified, Gold, Green, and Hybrid. These distinctions highlight the differences of factors such as author responsibility and ease of access by the user. The following is a simplified distinction:

  • Gold OA - seen through OA journals, access to content is freely available and unrestricted to users over the Internet at the time of deposit. Depending on the publication, authors may be responsible for costs associated with processing and technical infrastructure. 
  • Green OA - typically denotes the extent of journal or publisher policies allowing authors to publish or self-archive work apart from the officially published article. This can allow for either pre-print/post-print copies to be accessible on a personal website or within an institutional repository (IR). Publisher embargoes of content may also be a condition of self-archiving.
  • Hybrid OA - A combination of the two types listed above, where publishers will dedicate a portion of a journal's content to be open access, with the majority accessible by paid subscription. Authors may be charged fees to make their articles more discoverable in this particular method.

Peter Suber provides a more thorough description of the OA distinctions in his detailed OA overview