2. What is Open Access?

Open Access in general means free and unrestricted access to knowledge, information, science, and scholarship so that everyone benefits from research outputs, especially if this research is funded by the public.  It includes access to government publications and information (e.g. UK Official Documents), open courses and resources (e.g. MIT Open Courseware), institutional repositories (e.g. Queen Mary Research Online), subject repositories (arXiv), data repositories (e.g. CiteSeerX), corporate repositories (e.g. The World Bank Open Knowledge Repository), archives (e.g. Open Music Archive), and more.  Detailed information on international, national, and institutional open access initiatives in every field can be found in the Open Access Directory (http://oad.simmons.edu/oadwiki/).

Open Access to scholarly literature in particular means that it is freely available on the public Internet, permitting any users to                                    

  • read,
  • search,                                                                       
  • download,
  • copy,
  • print,
  • distribute,
  • link to the full text version of this literature,
  • transmit and display the work publicly,
  • make derivative works,
  • crawl it for indexing,
  • pass it as data to software, e.g. for text-mining
  • and use it for any other lawful purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers.

The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.  Read the BBB – 'Budapest, Bethesda, Berlin definition of Open Access' to literature by Open Access champion Peter Suber.  Peter Suber is an avid supporter of the Open Access movement and has published a book on the subject, which is going to be open access after an embargo period of 12 months.  Stevan Harnad is another Open Access 'Archivangelist', who emphasises the importance of self-archiving and repositories in support of the movement.

There are many events and organisations worldwide, as well as individuals, supporting Open Access and disseminating information on its benefits.  Open Access Week (http://www.openaccessweek.org/) is an annual scholarly communication event focusing on open access and related topics.  It takes place during the last full week of October in a multiple locations both online and offline.  Activities include talks, seminars, symposia, the announcement of open access mandates, or other milestones in Open Access.  It is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share with colleagues what they have learnt, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research. 

There are various Open Access logos but the one below, which was originally designed by one of the first open access publishers, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), is the one widely used and recognised today as the Open Access logo:

Open Access logo