Open Access

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= Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions - Peter Suber [1]

FAQ at


1. "Open Access contributions are those works that satisfy two conditions:

  • The author(s) and right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship (community standards will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now), whether in print or online.
  • A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in an appropriate standard electronic format is deposited (and thus published) in at least one online repository using suitable technical standards (such as the Open Archive Definitions) that is supported and maintained by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving."


2. “By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. 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." - Budapest Open Access Initiative, (


From the Wikipedia:

"Open access (OA) is free, immediate, permanent, full-text, online access, for any user, web-wide, to digital scientific and scholarly material, primarily research articles published in peer-reviewed journals. OA means that any individual user, anywhere, who has access to the Internet, may link, read, download, store, print-off, use, and data-mine the digital content of that article. An OA article usually has limited copyright and licensing restrictions.

The first major international statement on open access was the Budapest Open Access Initiative in February 2002. This provided a definition of open access, and has a growing list of signatories. Two further statements followed: the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishingin June 2003 and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities in October 2003.

OA has since become the subject of much discussion amongst researchers, academics, librarians, university administrators, funding agencies, government officials, commercial publishers, and society publishers. Although there is substantial (though not universal) agreement on the concept of OA itself, there is considerable debate and discussion about the economics of funding peer review in open access publishing, and the reliability and economic effects of self-archiving.

There are about 20-25,000 peer-reviewed journals in allacross all disciplines, countries and languages. About 10 - 15% of them are OA journals, as indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals (gold OA). Of the more than 10,000 peer-reviewed non-OA journals indexed in the Romeo directory of publisher policies (which includes most of the journals indexed by Thomson/ISI[8]), over 90% endorse some form of author self-archiving (green OA): 62% endorse self-archiving the author's final peer-reviewed draft or "postprint," 29% the pre-refereeing "preprint." (

From the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

"There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. 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." (

See also: The Open Access FAQ:

Key Arguments

Peter Suber answers the main worries of the critics and doubters:

On incentives:

- As OA proponents we have to “start working with the existing system of incentives”.... and that “researchers are not so preoccupied by their research that they can’t be induced to pay attention to relevant differences among journals, or at least the differences which universities make relevant. This gives hope to a strategy to get faculty to pay attention to access issues.” [my emphasis]

On prestige:

- “If most OA journals are lower in prestige than [traditional] journals, it’s not because they are OA. A large [part] of the explanation is that they are newer and younger” ... “There is already a growing number of high-prestige OA journals.”

(OA journals like PLoS Medicine, whose impact factors have consistently put it among the top 5 of general medical journals and whose influence means its articles are regularly cited in media and policy discussions).

On promotion and tenure reviews:

- “Universities tend to use journal prestige and impact as surrogates for quality. The excuses for doing so are getting thin” ... “If you've ever had to consider a candidate for hiring, promotion, or tenure, you know that it's much easier to tell whether she has published in high-impact or high-prestige journals than to tell whether her articles are actually good.” ... “When we want to assess the quality of articles or people, and not the citation impact of journals, then we need measurements that are more nuanced, more focused on the salient variables, more fair to the variety of scholarly resources, more comprehensive, more timely, and with luck more automated and fully OA.” (

Characteristics of Open Access

Open Access, as defined by Peter Suber in his Open Access Overview (excerpt):

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

  • OA removes price barriers (subscriptions, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees) and permission barriers (most copyright and licensing restrictions). The PLoS shorthand definition —"free availability and unrestricted use"— succinctly captures both elements.
  • There is some flexibility about which permission barriers to remove. For example, some OA providers permit commercial re-use and some do not. Some permit derivative works and some do not. But all of the major public definitions of OA agree that merely removing price barriers, or limiting permissible uses to "fair use" ("fair dealing" in the UK), is not enough.
  • Here's how the Budapest Open Access Initiative put it: "There are many degrees and kinds of wider and easier access to this literature. By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users 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 other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. 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."
  • Here's how the Bethesda and Berlin statements put it: For a work to be OA, the copyright holder must consent in advance to let users "copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship...."
  • The Budapest (February 2002), Bethesda (June 2003), and Berlin (October 2003) definitions of "open access" are the most central and influential for the OA movement. Sometimes I call refer to them collectively, or to their common ground, as the BBB definition.
  • While removing price barriers without removing permission barriers is not enough for full OA under the BBB definition, there's no doubt that price barriers constitute the bulk of the problem for which OA is the solution. Removing price barriers alone will give most OA proponents most of what they want and need.
  • In addition to removing access barriers, OA should be immediate, rather than delayed, and should apply to full-text, not just to abstracts or summaries.

(See the rest of this document at


Green vs. Gold


"Green OA consists of researchers continuing to publish in traditional subscription journals, and then self-archiving their final peer-reviewed papers on the Web, either in an institutional repository or in a central or subject-based repository like arXiv or PubMed Central. In this way they can ensure that any other researcher in the world is able to access their papers, regardless of whether the other researcher's institution has a subscription to the journals in which the papers are published. Gold OA, by contrast, consists of researchers publishing in specialist OA journals (e.g. the journals of OA publishers like BioMed Central or Public Library of Science) rather than in a subscription journal. The OA movement has developed an interesting question has arisen: should Green and Gold OA be viewed as concurrent or consecutive activities?" (


"Gold OA - journals in this category do peer reviews, and allow the author to retain copyright. Some are for profit, some are not. They charge a fee to publish each article (paid by the author, or the sponsor of the research, or the university). These journals may run advertisements or priced “add-on” articles to help defray the costs of publishing.

Green OA - refers primarily to archives and repositories, often hosted by universities committed to long-term preservation. Peer review is not necessary, as articles in this category have already gone through their initial publishing process. The repositories are typically organized by discipline.

A cross between Gold and Green is what Suber calls the "delayed open access journal" which allows OA to begin after an embargo period (i.e. a set period of time after publication). There is also the situation of articles previously published in non-OA journals. As the copyright holders, the publishers may or may not allow OA archiving. But, as Suber points out, there are actually three versions of an article: (1) the pre-print version; (2) the post-print version (after peer review, but before copy-editing), and (3) the final version. The author typically holds the copyright for the pre-print version. And according to Suber, 70% of journals allow for post-print archiving. So in essence, an author can often decide the extent of an article to expose in an archive." (

Strong vs. Weak

Peter Suber and Stevan Harnad:

"The term “open access” is now widely used in at least two senses. For some, “OA” literature is digital, online, and free of charge. It removes price barriers but not permission barriers. For others, “OA” literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of unnecessary copyright and licensing restrictions. It removes both price barriers and permission barriers. It allows reuse rights which exceed fair use.

There are two good reasons why our central term became ambiguous. Most of our success stories deliver OA in the first sense, while the major public statements from Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin (together, the BBB definition of OA) describe OA in the second sense.

As you know, Stevan Harnad and I have differed about which sense of the term to prefer –he favoring the first and I the second. What you may not know is that he and I agree on nearly all questions of substance and strategy, and that these differences were mostly about the label. While it may seem that we were at an impasse about the label, we have in fact agreed on a solution which may please everyone. At least it pleases us.

We have agreed to use the term “weak OA” for the removal of price barriers alone and “strong OA” for the removal of both price and permission barriers. To me, the new terms are a distinct improvement upon the previous state of ambiguity because they label one of those species weak and the other strong. To Stevan, the new terms are an improvement because they make clear that weak OA is still a kind of OA.

On this new terminology, the BBB definition describes one kind of strong OA. A typical funder or university mandate provides weak OA. Many OA journals provide strong OA, but many others provide weak OA." (

Overview of the debate at

Author vs. Publisher Archiving

"Two models. The first is a system in which the author of an academic paper pays a journal publisher for his or her peers to review the research, and for the publishing team to edit the work and market the research. In reality, it is not the academic who would pay but the organisation that funds the research, such as the British Heart Foundation or a research council. The Public Library of Science, the US-based publisher of scientific and medical journals, announced it would adopt this model in 2002 to give its scientists more choice and control over the way their work was published.

The second is a system in which an academic posts his or her research paper on the university's database - known as a repository - for all academics and the general public to see via the internet once the paper has been accepted by a journal. This is known as "author archiving"." (,,2011324,00.html)

OA for Data vs. OA for publications

"The research production cycle has three components: the conduct of the research itself (R), the data (D), and the peer-reviewed publication (P) of the findings. Open Access (OA) means free online access to the publications (P-OA), but OA can also be extended to the data (D-OA): the two hurdles for D-OA are that not all researchers want to make their data OA and that the online infrastructure for D-OA still needs additional functionality. In contrast, all researchers, without exception, do want to make their publications P-OA, and the online infrastructure for publication-archiving (a worldwide interoperable network of OAI [2]-compliant Institutional Repositories [IRs][3]) already has all the requisite functionality for this." (


See also: Open Access Publishing - Statistics

"The global shift towards making research findings available free of charge for readers—so-called 'open access'—was confirmed today in a study funded by the European Commission. This new research suggests that open access is reaching the tipping point, with around 50% of scientific papers published in 2011 now available for free. This is about twice the level estimated in previous studies, explained by a refined methodology and a wider definition of open access. The study also estimates that more than 40% of scientific peer reviewed articles published worldwide between 2004 and 2011 are now available online in open access form. The study looks at the EU and some neighbouring countries, as well as Brazil, Canada, Japan and United States of America." (

The Reality in 2014: Six Myths Debunked

Peter Suber:

" the six most common and harmful misunderstandings about open access:

1) The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals

Open access delivered by journals is called "gold" open access and open access delivered by repositories is called "green" open access. The myth asserts that all open access is gold , even for peer-reviewed articles. It has been false since the birth of open access, and yet it remains a tenacious and widespread misconception. Today most open access in medicine and biomedicine is gold, but in every other field it's mostly green.

The myth is due in part to the relative novelty of the green model. Most academics understand open access journals, more or less, because they understand journals. (I say "more or less" because the common understanding of open access journals is itself myth-ridden; more below.) By contrast, repositories are comparatively new in the scholarly landscape, making them easy to overlook or underestimate. Digital research repositories arose in the digital era, while peer-reviewed journals arose in the year that Isaac Newton earned his bachelor's degree.

However, this excuse is wearing thin. Today the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) lists more than 250 subject-based open access repositories and more than 2,300 institutional open access repositories. The Cornell University arXiv for physics and mathematics is more than 20 years old – ancient in internet time. Several open access repositories, including arXiv, the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), and PubMed Central (PMC), dominate their respective subject fields.

Nearly every open access policy at a university or funding agency is a green policy, that is, a policy requiring deposit in an open access repository rather than submission to open access journals. Although open access repositories were novel a couple of decades ago, there's no excuse for digital scholars not to know that they exist, that they differ from journals, and that they are effective options for the lawful distribution of articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

2) All or most open access journals charge publication fees

Charging publication fees (sometimes called author fees or article processing charges) is the best-known business model for open access journals, but it's far far from the most common. We've known since 2006 that most peer-reviewed open access journals charge no fees at all. Earlier this year the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) began providing its own tallies of open access journals that do and don't charge fees. As of this week, the DOAJ reports that more than two-thirds (67%) of all peer-reviewed open access journals charge no fees.

We've also known since 2006 that most (75%) conventional or non-open access journals do charge author-side fees, on top of reader-side subscription fees. This matters because a close cousin to myth number two is the assumption that author-side fees corrupt peer review. If true, then this corruption affects the majority of conventional journals and only a minority of open access journals.

3) Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves

According to the comprehensive Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP), when researchers publish in fee-based open access journals, the fees are paid by funders (59%) or by universities (24%). Only 12% of the time are they paid by authors out of pocket. This is a good reason to stop using the term "author fees" for publication fees, or the term "author pays" for the fee-based business model.

Scholars who make their work green open access rather than gold never pay a fee to do so. Even when they choose the gold route, only 33% of peer-reviewed open access journals charge author-side fees. It follows that only 4% of authors who publish in open access journals (12% of 33%) pay fees out of pocket. At the same time, about 50% of articles published in peer-reviewed open access journals are published in fee-based journals. If we count by article rather than by journal, then only 6% of authors who publish in open access journals (12% of 50%) pay fees out of pocket.

4) Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access

Most conventional publishers give standing permission for author-initiated green open access. Many of the others will give permission on request. For authors unsure of a publisher's position, check out the Sherpa RoMEO database of publisher policies, read the publishing contract, or ask an editor. It's always worth asking, if only to register demand and show rising expectations.

Because this permission comes from publishers themselves, it makes green open access lawful even when authors have transferred all relevant rights to publishers. However, the permission needn't come from publishers. Authors may retain relevant rights, on their own, through author addenda (lawyer-drafted contract modifications), or through open access policies at their funding agency or employer. For example, since 2005 the Wellcome Trust has had a policy requiring Wellcome-funded researchers to retain the right to authorise open access, if the publisher doesn't already permit or provide open access. The US National Institutions of Health (NIH) has had a similar policy since 2008. A new bill in Germany would allow authors to provide green open access to articles arising from publicly-funded research, regardless of their publishing contracts.

On the university side, departments in more than 40 universities around the world have adopted policies, inspired by those developed at Harvard, in which faculty grant their institution non-exclusive rights to make their future articles open access. Rights-retention policies like these assure that faculty may make their work open access even when they publish in a non-open access journal, even when the non-open access journal does not give standing permission for green open access, and even when faculty members have not negotiated special access terms or permissions with their publishers.

Bottom line: when the best journal in your field is not open access, and you're good enough to be published there, then you can publish there and still make your peer-reviewed text open access through a repository.

5) Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality

As early as 2004, Thomson Scientific found that in every field of the sciences "there was at least one open access title that ranked at or near the top of its field" in citation impact. Of course the number of high-quality and high-impact open access journals has only grown since then. It's not surprising that open access journals can be first-rate: the quality of a scholarly journal is a function of its authors, editors, and referees, not its business model or access policy. Even John Bohannon's recent sting of the execrable bottom tier of open access publishers vindicated the excellent top tier (though without showing how good the best open access journals can be), and the vindicated publishers are among the largest open access publishers publishing the most open access journals and articles.

6) Open access mandates infringe academic freedom

This is true for gold open access but not for green. But if you believe that all open access is gold, then this myth follows as a lemma. Because only about one-third of peer-reviewed journals are open access, requiring researchers to submit new work to open access journals would severely limit their freedom to submit work to the journals of their choice. By contrast, green open access is compatible with publishing in non-open access journals, which means that green open access mandates can respect author freedom to publish where they please. That is why literally all university open access mandates are green, not gold. It's also why the green/gold distinction is significant, not fussy, and why myths suppressing recognition of green open access are harmful, not merely false." (


See Open Access - Discussion for the following contributions:

  • 1.1 The benefits of open access to science
  • 1.2 Open Access: Why We Should Have It
  • 1.3 The Capitalist Case for Open Access
  • 1.4 Stevan Harnad on the differences between open access to code, text, and data
  • 1.5 Stevan Harnad: Open Access does not threaten Peer Review
  • 1.6 A Plea for Caution
  • 1.7 True Open Access means Derivative Usage must be allowed

Timeline - History

Milestones for the open access movement:

  • 13 November 1990: Tim Berners Lee wrote the first web page
  • 16 August 1991: Paul Ginsparg (who is also on the Board of Directors of PLoS) launched a high energy physics preprint archive
  • 27 June 1994: Stevan Harnad posted a “subversive proposal” promoting self-archiving
  • 5 May 1999: Harold Varmus, Chair of the Board of Directors of PLoS, proposed E-biomed
  • Feb 2000: Pubmed Central was launched
  • 14 February 2002: The Budapest Open Access Initiative was launched
  • 1 October 2005: The Wellcome Trust implemented its open access mandate


More information

  1. Interview with Stevan Harnad on Open Access
  2. Incentivizing for Open Access
  3. Open Archives
  4. Overview of open access publishing in the context of Open Science
  5. Richard Poynder: Green vs. Gold Open Access, at
  6. Open access bibliography by Charles Bailey, at

OA Status Reports

2010 status report from Peter Suber at

"According to the OAD website (2009), hosted by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, there are currently around 4,344 Open Access journals. Its page "OA by the numbers" provides many useful statistics and links to their sources, including breakdowns by Gold and Green AO." (

See also:

  1. Trends Favoring Open Access, overview by Peter Suber, at
  2. Another summary here at
  3. 2007 Overview, by Peter Suber, at;view=text;rgn=main;idno=3336451.0011.110

Resources by Peter Suber

Open Access Overview (Peter Suber's introduction to OA for those who are new to the concept)

Very Brief Introduction to Open Access (like the above, but prints on just one page)

Open Access News blog (Peter Suber's blog, updated daily)

SPARC Open Access Newsletter (Peter Suber's newsletter, published monthly)

Writings on Open Access (Peter Suber's articles on OA)

Timeline of the open access movement (Peter Suber's chronology of the landmark events)

What you can do to help the cause of open access (Peter Suber's list of what individuals and institutions can do)

Declarations and Policy Papers

Three initiatives in particular have helped grow Open Access - the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, - and are recognised as historical, defining moments in the growth of this movement.

  1. The Budapest Open Access Initiative aims to guarantee access to scienfitic materials, at : ; the Science Commons initiative by Lawrence Lessig et al, at ; International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, at
  2. Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing
  3. Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities


Open Access no danger for peer review. Issue Brief against the PRISM propaganda by the Association of Research Libraries]

Open Access Depositories

  1. Open Access scientific journals are thriving; see the Directory of Open Access Journals at; the Directory of Open Access Repositories,; the Open Archives Initiative,
  2. Open access archives: the Los Alamos e-print archive, at ; Pub Med Central life sciences archive,; BioMed Central,;
  3. The Public Library of Science aims to reorganize scientific publishing on an open model, at; Wired discusses some of the difficulties of the project at,1284,67797,00.html?
  4. The academic journal literature is accessible through Charles Bailey's Open Access Bibliography, ARL, 2005, at


  1. Registry of Open Access Depositories


Open Access Bibliography at

Open access publishing: A developing country view, by Jennifer I. Papin-Ramcharan and Richard A. Dawe

Strategies for developing sustainable open access scholarly journals, by David J. Solomon

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, at

(see also SEPR and SEPW

OAIster, at

Open Access Webliography, at

Open Access News Blog, by Peter Suber

SPARC Open Access Newsletter, by Peter Suber

Key Books To Read

The following books were chosen from a list provided by Peter Suber.

Book 1. Open Access to Knowledge / Libre accès aux savoirs. Francis André. Futuribles, Perspectives, 72 pages, 2005

"If open-source software has shown the importance of skill sharing, it is part of a broader issue: the progress of thought, and therefore of science, depends primarily on the freedom to communicate and exchange ideas. Thus the importance of the international initiative in favour of open access to scientific works that challenges a commercial publishing system where some publishers can claim a quasi-monopoly. Francis André is a major player of this movement of utmost importance for Southern countries and ultimately for the overall global development of innovation." (comment from

Book 2: John Willinsky, The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship, MIT Press, 2005.

"Questions about access to scholarship go back farther than recent debates over subscription prices, rights, and electronic archives suggest. The great libraries of the past -- from the fabled collection at Alexandria to the early public libraries of nineteenth-century America -- stood as arguments for increasing access. In The Access Principle, John Willinsky describes the latest chapter in this ongoing story -- online open access publishing by scholarly journals -- and makes a case for open access as a public good. A commitment to scholarly work, writes Willinsky, carries with it a responsibility to circulate that work as widely as possible: this is the access principle. In the digital age, that responsibility includes exploring new publishing technologies and economic models to improve access to scholarly work. Wide circulation adds value to published work; it is a significant aspect of its claim to be knowledge. The right to know and the right to be known are inextricably mixed. Open access, argues Willinsky, can benefit both a researcher-author working at the best-equipped lab at a leading research university and a teacher struggling to find resources in an impoverished high school. Willinsky describes different types of access -- the New England Journal of Medicine, for example, grants open access to issues six months after initial publication, and First Monday forgoes a print edition and makes its contents immediately accessible at no cost. He discusses the contradictions of copyright law, the reading of research, and the economic viability of open access. He also considers broader themes of public access to knowledge, human rights issues, lessons from publishing history, and "epistemological vanities." The debate over open access, writes Willinsky, raises crucial questions about the place of scholarly work in a larger world -- and about the future of knowledge."

John Willinsky is Pacific Press Professor of Literacy and Technology at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of Empire of Words: The Reign of the OEDand a developer of Open Journals Systems software.