There is an increasing interest from governments, funders and the research community itself in opening up the way research is carried out and communicated. This interest is complemented by new research practices and processes that can work effectively only in an open and collaborative environment. Therefore it is important to properly understand the Open Access (OA) concept.
Open access is free, immediate, online access to research results coupled with the right to use those results in new and innovative ways. There are significant economic, social and educational benefits to making research outputs and learning and teaching materials available without financial, legal and technical barriers to access.
Open access provides many benefits and opportunities to different stakeholders:
- Researchers: open access benefits the researchers in the following ways: increased visibility, usage and impact for their work as well as easy collaboration among researchers.
- Educators/ students worldwide are developing a vast pool of educational resources on the Internet, open and free for all to use; they are also planting the seeds of a new pedagogy where educators and learners create, shape and evolve knowledge together, deepening their skills and understanding as they go;
- Publishers: open access brings increased readership and, with that, increased citations and maximum visibility and impact for a journal's contents; it means that the best possible dissemination service is being provided for research;
- Libraries: open access has changed the profile of academic and research libraries. They can now partner with scientists and research managers to set up open repositories, to curate research data and to develop open access policies. In collaboration with scholarly publishers, these libraries publish open access journals and books; and with educators, the libraries produce open educational resources, ensuring the quality of digital content, its reuse and sharing;
- Policy makers and research managers: open access helps to publicize institutes’ research strengths, providing maximum return on research investment, and new tools to manage institutions' impact.
Open Access and Digital Online Free-of-Charge Literature
What is the difference between open access literature and digital, online and free of charge literature?
By 'open access' literature we mean permanent and free availability through the public internet, permitting each user to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers.
On the other hand, digital, online and cost-free literature does not have a price barrier for users, but still has permission barriers (e.g. registration, copyright and licensing restrictions, no reuse rights). E.g. you might have free access to research literature via HINARI, AGORA, OARE and other international initiatives because somebody (e.g. a donor) paid on your behalf, or the publisher was generous enough to provide free access to you. If you are asked to register, provide your IP address, or sign a license, this is not open access.
Examples of Open Access Initiatives
There are a number of examples of repositories that are conform with open access initiatives; each uses different strategies to achieve the open access principles.
- The Directory of Open Access Journals
- African Journals OnLine – the world's largest online collection of African-published, peer-reviewed scholarly journals aimed at increasing online visibility, access and use of African-published research output in support of quality African research and higher education.
- The Academy of Science of South Africa(ASSAf)
- Hindawi Publishing Corporation based in Cairo, Egypt, is a rapidly growing academic publisher with 200+ open access journals covering all major areas of science, technology, and medicine.
- PLoS ONE – an interactive open access journal for the communication of peer-reviewed scientific and medical research became the world's largest journal (published 6,749 articles in 2010).