Open Access ensures that research is made freely available to all.
Open Access (OA) is about the online availability of academic research outputs which should be made available immediately with no access fees and free of most licencing/copyright restrictions. Outputs can be made available to read or, given appropriate attribution can be licensed for re-use, distribution or adaptation, often through a Creative Commons Licence . Free availability all at the point of use and removal of restrictions on re-use are key hallmarks of Open Access.
The core principles of Open Access were enshrined in the 2001 Budapest Open Access Initiative which proclaimed that “An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. ” .
Drivers for Open Access
The traditional academic publishing model is seen as being financially unsustainable for the public sector. Currently public funds are used three times in the research process: to pay the academics who conduct the research, to pay the academics who conduct the peer review process, and to pay for academics to access this research through institutional journal subscriptions. Open Access is advocated by many institutions and importantly by many research funders, some of whom mandate open access as part of their funding agreements. A number of innovative publishers, for example PLoS and BioMed Central, have seized the opportunities provided by open access and now only publish OA content. Traditional publishers are also beginning to accept OA as a valid and sustainable publishing model – some are even providing their own OA journals.
Unlike the traditional publishing model, libraries do not have to pay any subscription fees to access content, and individual users are not restricted by paywalls. Open Access provides a viable alternative to the traditional publishing model, and its ease of access and removal of restrictions on re-use provide benefits for authors, HE institutions, funding bodies, and the wider community.
Open Access in Practice: Green and Gold
In practice, Open Access involves individual academics publishing their research in the traditional manner, but archiving their pre-prints or post-prints in an institutional or subject repository where it will be freely available. This is known as the ‘green’ model. Alternatively academics can publish their research directly in an open access journal and, should they wish, or be required to do so by their institution or funder, archive their pre-prints or post-prints  in an institutional or subject repository. This is known as the ‘gold’ model.
Both models have varying advantages and disadvantages, but importantly both models provide the key benefits of increased visibility, impact and citations associated with Open Access.
Key Benefits of Open Access
Open Access outputs are freely available on the web and are therefore not restricted to those with access to an institutional subscription or those who can afford to purchase one-off articles directly from publishers. This means that visibility of research is greatly improved, which in turn can lead to a greater number of citations per output, potentially giving research more impact than if it was published through the traditional model. These facts have been verified by several studies [4 5 6 7 8].
Similarly, the free availability of research through open access makes it easier for other researchers to access and to decide whether or not to cite it in their own work.
Open Access publishing provides opportunities to remove traditional restrictions on the re-use and remix of scholarly content. The Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC-BY)  is emerging as an international “gold standard”. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) applies this licence to all of the work which they publish to “allow anyone to download, reuse, reprint, modify, distribute, and/or copy articles in PLoS journals, so long as the original authors and source are cited.” 10]. There are over 1620 journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) which support Creative Commons licences .
The high visibility of Open Access outputs, and all of its consequences, gives greater value to publicly funded research.
1 Creative Commons Licenceshttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/
2 Budapest Open Access Initiativehttp://www.soros.org/openaccess/index.shtml
4 Antelmann, Kirstin (2004). Do open access articles have a greater research impact? College & Research Libraries News, 65(5), 372-382.
5 Eysenbach, Gunther (2006). Citation advantage of open access articles. PLoS Biology, 4(5).
6 Gargouri, Yassine; Hajjem, Chawki; Lariviere, Vincent; Gingras, Yves; Carr, Les; Brody, Tim & Harnad, Stevan (2010). Self-Selected or Mandated, Open Access Increases Citation Impact for Higher Quality Research. PLOS ONE, 5 (10).
7 Harnad, Stevan & Brody, Tim (2004). Comparing the impact of open access (OA) vs. non-oa articles in the same journals. D-Lib Magazine, 10(6).
8 Lawrence, Steve (2001). Free online availability substantially increases a paper’s impacthttp://www.nature.com/nature/debates/e-access/Articles/lawrence.html. Nature, 411 (6837), 521.
9 Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)
11 Public Library of Science (PLoS) Open Access License
12 Directory of Open Access Journals – Creative Commons licensed journals