Open Access

Introduction to Open Access

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.

In most fields, scholarly journals do not pay authors, who can therefore consent to OA without losing revenue. 

OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review.

OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature. The question is not whether scholarly literature can be made costless, but whether there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating access barriers. Business models for paying the bills depend on how OA is delivered.

See also the Association of College and Research Libraries'  short introduction to OPEN PEER REVIEW

There are two primary vehicles for delivering OA to research articles: OA journals and OA archives or repositories.

For a longer introduction, with live links for further reading, see Peter Suber's Open Access Overview 

Open Access Journal Models

There are two modles of Open Access that apply to Journals:

GOLD Open Access: Content is delivered by journal publishers and is freely available to the public.  In some cases, a journal provides gold open access only for those individual articles for which an Article Processing Charge (APC) has been paid by the author. The publisher conducts the peer review process. (Gold OA publisher examples: the Public Library of Science and Biomed Central)

GREEN Open Access:  The author retains a preprint version of an article and posts it to a repository or website. (see "Authors' Rights section of this guide)  After publication, the author archives the peer-reviewed postprint of the article for public use in an institutional repository or central repository (e.g. PubMed Central). No APC is assessed.  Access is granted to the postprint after a publisher's embargo period has expired (Standard embargo period is 12 months).   

NOTE:  Some funding agencies include clauses to allow for the use of grant funds to cover APC fees, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

SHERPA/RoMEO Database
A regularly updated database of peer-reviewed journal publishers’ agreements.  Use it to find publishers or journals that permit deposit of a final version of a paper in a public repository, such as PubMed Central or in an institutional repository, allowing scholars to find the full-text version through a Google search. Authors are able to compare and select the most author-friendly and dissemination-friendly publisher agreement before submitting a paper for publication.

See also Sherpa/Juliet which provides current information on research funders'  open access policies and Roarmap, the
Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies, a searchable international registry charting the growth of open access mandates and policies adopted by universities, research institutions and research funders that require or request their researchers to provide open access to their peer-reviewed research article output by depositing it in an open access repository.

The Open Access Spectrum Evaluation Tool quantitatively scores journals' degrees of openness.  It offers a concrete, quantifiable mechanism to analyze publications' policies. The OAS Evaluation Tool aims to provide unprecedented insight and transparency into scholarly journals' degree of openness.

More for-profit publishers are supporting open-access titles.  For example, see ScienceDirect's list of OA titles.  Elsevier also gives authors the option to publish open access articles in several of their established journals.  From the linked list you can limit your results to open access journals or journals that contain open access articles.

Short video on the value of preprints in supporting research:  

Open Access Repositories

OA archives or repositories do not perform peer review, but simply make their contents freely available to the world. They may contain unrefereed preprints, refereed postprints, or both. Archives may belong to institutions or disciplines, such as physics and economics. Authors may archive their preprints without anyone else's permission, and a majority of journals already permit authors to archive their postprints. (see Authors' Rights) 

Digital Commons @IC   Ithaca College's online repository for the scholarship produced by IC faculty, students, and staff.

Open Library of Humanities  Note: OLH has recently announced the development of an open source translation tool that will allow users to write and view translations of any web pages.

PLoS ONE: Public Library of Science
An international, peer-reviewed, open-access online publication for all scientific disciplines. Associated scientific content available at this site include PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine, PLoS Genetics, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, PLoS Pathogens, and PLoS Computational Biology. 

Scientific Information System Redalyc.   Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America and the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal - includes citations for journal articles, some full-text articles and socio-economic indicator sources. (Note: Site is in Spanish)

Humanities CORE In September 2016, the Modern Language Association (MLA) and Columbia University Libraries announced the award of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to begin development of the Humanities Commons Open Repository Exchange (Humanities Core). 

Share  A project of the Center for Open Science and the Association of Research
Libraries. Indexes the metadata of multiple preprint servers and serve as a central place to find information on journal article preprints.

In August 2016, the American Chemical Society announced the development of ChemRxiv a "chemistry preprint server for the global chemistry community, proposed as a collaborative undertaking that will facilitate the open dissemination of important scientific findings." 

PubMed  more than four million articles from the NIH and six other Federal agencies in a standardized, machine-readable XML format.

SocArXiv A server for social science research that provides access to preprints of research papers to the scholarly community at an early stage, permitting the author to incorporate community comments into the final version of the paper before its publication in a journal. Authors and papers are ranked by their number of downloads, which is an informal indicator of impact on prepress and open access sites.   While access to the published paper may be restricted, access to the original working paper remains open through SSRN.  Requires free registration.

Social Science Open Access Repository
Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR) is a growing collection of full-text social-science documents which you can access freely.  To search for documents, you can use either the simple or advanced search option or the browse and search function.

Center for Research Libraries  Beginning in January 2017, all digital materials hosted on the web by the CRL, that derive from source materials in the public domain or for which CRL has secured the requisite rights and permissions, will be available without restriction.

Contact Us

picture of Lisabeth Chabot

Lisabeth Chabot

College Librarian
(607) 274-3182

Open Access Facts

  • There are more than 10,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals in the world, about a third of all peer-reviewed journals. 
  • There are close to 50,000 free-to-read journals of academic interest (including fully open peer reviewed journals, journals with free back issues, and journals of academic interest that are not peer-reviewed).
  • Open access monographs is an area experiencing rapid growth, with an annual growth rate of over 40% for both books and publishers. 
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, signed by President Obama requires all federal agencies that spend $100 million or more per year on research and development to provide free online access to the work they fund within 12 months of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  

In March 2015, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act was introduced in the US Senate. The goals of this bill are to accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by making articles reporting on publicly funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.  

In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Education proposed a rule for “Open Licensing Requirement for Direct Grant Programs” which would amend regulations such that all Department grantees who are awarded direct competitive grant funds would be required to openly license this content to the public.

U.S. Funding Agencies Public Access Plans and their respective requirements.

The European Union has developed an action plan for Open Science, with a goal of speeding the transition to open science in Europe.  The plan calls for full open access for all publicly funded scientific publications by 2020.

As of January 2017, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation now requires all its grant recipients to make their published, peer-reviewed work immediately available to the public, the latest development in a larger push to make research more accessible.

SPARC Europe  (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) maintains a list of studies that research whether or not there is a citation advantage for Open Access articles. 
Total number of studies:  70
  • Studies that found a citation advantage:  46
  • Studies that found no citation advantage: 17
  • Studies that were inconclusive, found non-significant data or measured other things than citation advantage for articles:  7

ROAD: (the Directory of Open Access Scholarly Resources) provides a single access point to different types of online scholarly resources published worldwide and freely available; information about the quality and prominence of OA resources by indicating by what services or journal indicators they are covered; and an overview of Open Access scholarly production worldwide. 

Author's Rights

Copyright law gives the creator of copyrighted works exclusive rights to
•    reproduce the work in copies (e.g., as photocopies or online),
•    distribute copies of the work;
•    prepare translations and other derivative works,
•    perform or display the work publicly;
•    authorize others to exercise any of these rights.
Scholarly journals typically ask authors to sign a publication agreement or a copyright transfer agreement. These documents transfer ownership of copyright to the publisher and determine the uses an author will be able to make of his/her work in the future.

Note: If an author transfers ownership of the copyright, he or she can still retain the right to do certain things such as include articles in course packs, or place articles on a personal web site or in the Digital Commons.

Most open access journals allow authors to retain copyright or provide some ability to share the content.  If the author retains ownership of the copyright, he or she can grant a non-exclusive license to the publisher, typically for the right of first formal publication.

Science Commons has created a Scholars Addendum Engine that generates a PDF example of what an author can attach to a publication agreement.

The SPARC Author's Addendum  is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher’s agreement and allows an author to keep key rights to articles.

Source:  ACRL Scholarly Communications Toolkit. 

Using the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License  artists and creators can proactively make their work available for public use, under specific conditions.   

This short video from the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (CDRS) at Columbia University discusses the ramifications of common publication agreements and gives advice for authors interested in retaining their rights.  
 

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