Open access is an outcome of the efforts of scholars interested in making materials available digitally, online, free of charge, and free of some use restrictions.
The goal of open access scholarship is the removal of price barriers (e.g. subscription costs) and permission barriers (e.g. restrictive use policies) in order to disseminate scholarship as widely as possible.
Open access involves publication of a version (pre-print, post-print, or final version) of a scholarly resource on a platform which provides free access to the content.
Currently several open access options are available to scholars:
Open access publishing does not require you to publish in specific journals. Many journals and publishers already explicitly allow self-archiving as part of their author's agreements. In fact, approximately 60-70% of the journal articles published by Bucknell faculty are already eligible for self-archiving under their publishers' current open access policies. You can obtain permission to self-archive from other journals and publishers by adding an addendum to your author's agreement, such as the example available from the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). Information about the policies of specific journals and publishers is available via the Sherpa/RoMEO database.
Open access does not change the peer review process, and all serious advocates for open access emphasize the importance and value of peer review. Open access is also fully compatible with current copyright laws. Open access does not change the principles of copyright, only how the rights are allocated. Because authors retain more rights, open access gives more power to authors.
For additional information on open access see the Open Access Directory, Peter Suber's "Open Access Overview," and the SPARC website.
There are three main arguments in support of open access:
Ethics: Research is a public good, often financed directly or indirectly by public funds, and should, therefore, be made available to the public. Open access also helps enable access to materials for scholars in developing countries and helps put rich and poor students and universities on more equal ground. For this reason, open access is a form of social justice, allowing anyone to access research regardless of their own, or their institution's, ability to pay subscription fees.
Research Impact: Research has shown that open access publications tend to be distributed more widely and cited more often than their non-open-access counterparts. With more than 24,000 journals currently in print, no library can have every journal in its collection, meaning that all non-open-access articles miss some of their potential audience.
Economics: Coupled with relatively flat library budgets, the increasing cost and number of academic journals have made maintaining collection levels unsustainable. Many libraries have had no choice but to cancel journal subscriptions and reduce expenditures in other areas (such as monograph collections).