What is Open Access?

Scholarly publishing can be prohibitively expensive. Between 1986 and 2003, journal prices increased by 215%, over three times the rate of inflation during that same period (Panitch & Michalak, 2005). This essentially puts research out of reach for the majority of people worldwide. In many ways, Open Access (OA) is a response to both the rising costs of journals and the advent of technology which makes virtually instantaneous, global distribution possible.

According to Enabling Open Scholarship,

Open Access is the immediate (upon or before publication), online, free availability of research outputs without any of the restrictions on use commonly imposed by publisher copyright agreements. It is definitely not vanity publishing or self-publishing, nor about the literature that scholars might normally expect to be paid for, such as books for which they hope to earn royalty payments. It concerns the outputs that scholars normally give away free to be published–journal articles, conference papers and datasets of various kinds.

To learn about different types of Open Access (and there are several), please see the More About Open Access Page or visit Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview.

What is Scholarly Communication?


Broadly speaking, Scholarly Communication is the life cycle of scholarship, as shown in the diagram above. It is the process through which research is discovered, accessed, created, reviewed, disseminated, acquired, and preserved. The process involves numerous stakeholders, including authors, publishers, libraries, institutions, and funding agencies.

Open Access, with its promotion of broad dissemination and widespread discovery, may be one component of the Scholarly Communication cycle. However, Scholarly Communication extends beyond the Open Access movement and deals with everything from author rights to bibliometrics to publishing practices.