The Open Access movement

The Open Access movement
References and useful links

The Open Access movement

What is Open Access?

The Open Access movement aims at improving the dissemination of scientific and scholarly information by encouraging free, integral and generalized access, through internet, to the research publications produced by all research communities, all domains included.

The goal of the Open Access movement should be attained through two different but complementary approaches: This movement is being largely supported and put into practice by several countries and institutions, as demonstrated by OECD's "Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding" and by the lists of signatures of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) and of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.

Open Access: why?

Open Access allows a faster and wider circulation of research information, and consequently a considerable development of research activity and of its results.

Research articles can be made public in an early phase in the form of preprints. Their target audience is thus not constrained to wait until the end of the publication process, which can take months or even years.

Furthermore, most research libraries nowadays have major difficulties in affording the continuous and disproportionate increase of scientific journal subscription costs (see the links about changing the research publication model). For many libraries these costs represent by far the major part of their annual acquisition budget, up to 80% or more. The Open Access movement leads to the development of more equitable business models, more affordable to these institutions.

But ultimately, and beyond the financial aspects, Open Access meets the interests of a great number of entities, as enumerated by Peter Suber in "OA serves the interests of many groups", which include: authors, readers, faculty, students, libraries, universities, journals and editors, sponsoring agencies, governments and citizens in general. More globally Open Access represents a reappropriation of research communication by the research community itself.

What is Self-Archiving?

A few facts about Self-Archiving:
  • Self-archiving is not a publication method, it is a procedure that is compatible and complementary to publishing. One refers to self-archiving when the author of a research article deposits a public copy of it in preprint and/or postprint form in an institutional repository.
  • Depositing an article in an institutional repository is usually a simple procedure that takes only a few minutes, and it can be easily done by the author him/herself.
  • Self-archiving allows authors to significantly increase the visibility of their work and the number of citations to their articles.
  • Self-archiving an article is compatible with publishing it in a journal, in the great majority of cases. Currently, more than 80% of all scientific journals authorize authors to self-archive a preprint or postprint version of the articles they publish.
A remarkable example can be found in the international research community in Physics. Since the early 1990's those researchers deposit early versions of most of their articles in a central repository of the community (arXiv), in parallel with the traditional publication process. In fact, works that are not deposited in that server suffer from reduced visibility among the community.

Open Access journals

The number of Open Access journals is currently increasing at great pace. In June 2010 DOAJ enumerates more than 5000 Open Access journals, in multiple knowledge domains. These journals provide the same quality level as traditional journals, because they are as well based on peer-review selection processes undertaken by qualified domain experts.

Under the traditional publication model research institutions (and their libraries) are three-fold financial contributors to the process:
  • they provide the funding for the research staff, the actuals creators of the published material (authors being otherwise not remunerated by editors);
  • these same authors contribute also in general to the process as members of peer-review committees of journals;
  • and finally, these institutions pay journal subscription fees, in order to offer their personnel an access to research knowledge.
Open Access does not provide a means of eliminating the direct costs associated with research information publishing. However, the fact that it relies on the usage of digital information technology rather than on paper probably allows a certain amount of cost reduction. In fact, from the economical point of view, its major effect is that of redistributing the costs involved in the process more reasonably among the involved agents. This change builds on the principle that the endured costs should serve at disseminating research information among the whole community, rather than allowing access to that information to only those that can afford it.

Open Access journals represent a major change compared to the traditional model – the institutions that finance authors pay publication fees rather than subscription fees. Published works are then freely accessible to the community through internet. This model allows the existence of both commercial and not-for-profit Open-Access journals and editors.

Authors in the context of Open Access

Every scholar or researcher may soon be faced with any one of the following situations:
  • his/her institution's library is forced to cancel certain journal subscriptions, being unable to face their increasing fees;
  • his/her employer or sponsor makes a formal commitment to support the Open Access model by signing the Budapest or the Berlin declarations, which in practice means that he will be encouraged (or impelled) to publish in Open Access journals and/or self-archive his articles in an institutional repository;
  • he/she is invited by other members of the research community to participate in peer-review committees for journals based on the Open Access model.
Researchers will be serving their own interest by promoting Open Access through actions such as:
  • self-archiving copies of their articles, including those that have been previously published, insofar as publisher's policies allow; in this respect they should consult the page "Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving" and contact the staff in their institution or library in charge of research publishing issues;
  • publish their work in Open Access journals;
  • encourage other members of their community to adhere to the change of paradigm:
  • by disseminating information about Open Access and its stakes, namely within their community and their institution.
  • read Peter Suber's page: «What you can do to promote open access»

References and useful links

General information

Declarations supporting Open Access

Other sources mentioned

Changing the research publication model

Further information: