Open access is a basic idea: make articles freely available online. A more complete definition is provided by Peter Suber of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) …”digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.”
Everything may be available on the web somewhere, but not everything is available for free. Open access seeks to change that. Open access models vary, (look for more about that tomorrow) but the main idea is to make research information more widely available, not just to those who can pay for it.
Open access can be achieved in two ways: by placing information in OA journals or in local archives and repositories, such as Scholarly Commons, the GRU institutional Repository. Articles placed in open-access journals can be peer-reviewed and held to the same rigorous standards as those in the best publications today. Most peer-reviewers currently are volunteers, so open access does not change their role. Copyright can still be applied to articles. Some authors may wish to allow unlimited use of their works, others may opt to only allow limited use. Either way, copyright may be applied to open access materials.
Open access is not entirely free. Formatting, organizing peer review and placing articles online will have a cost, but it need not be on the consumer. Some authors may pay a fee to have their articles published in certain open access journals.
More on open access in our next blog post.