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Open Access (OA)

Open Access (OA) is a hot topic in the world of scholarly communication these days. Why should we care? The purpose of OA is to empower researchers to share their findings with a broader audience, thus supporting the purpose of research: to share and grow knowledge. Below is a brief explanation of Open Access, plus some additional resources to learn more. Watch for more in-depth explanations in future blog posts.

What is Open Access?

Open Access is the immediate, free availability of scholarly research, with rights to fully use these works in the digital environment. For an info graphic describing different levels of open access, view this one from Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).

There are generally two levels of Open Access: Green and Gold.


Content (literature, data, etc.) is stored in university, laboratory, or organizational archives (aka institutional repository or IR) or digital repositories. Usually submitted directly by the author – or “self archived” – the author retains the right to make their material freely available. Material may be peer–reviewed or not.


Content is peer-reviewed according to existing journal policies and then published in those journals. The journal publishers make the content freely available to the public. Expenses for peer-review, preparation, server space, and upkeep are covered through many ways, including institutional subsidies, processing fees paid by the authors, or the organization that sponsored the work. About 5% of OA material is published in “gold” journals. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), or have some examples of OA journals.