Open Access

Open Access is a publishing model that provides an alternative to the current scholarly publishing model. There are many different ways the Open Access model is carried out but for an initiative to be considered Open Access price barriers (fees to access the materials) and permission barriers (copyright and licensing restrictions) must be removed. Digital information is made freely available. Users may have a variety of permissions, including the right to copy, use, change, distribute or display the information, as long as the original author is given credit. Open Access does not change how information is created; rather, it changes at what point information is paid for.

For an excellent introduction to Open Access see Peter Suber's Open Access Overview. For an introduction to Open Access and libraries, the Association of Research Libraries offers a great overview of key issues.

Open Access Journals

There are many Open Access journals available that provide free and immediate access to scholarly research without "paywalls", subscription fees, or by charging the reader for access. There are many Open Access journals across all disciplines, and while science, technology, and health sciences were all early adopters of Open Access publishing models, all major disciplines now support OA journals. The quality of Open Access journals varies, as with journals published by the traditional publishing model.

For a list of Open Access journals see Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

Open Access Repositories

Open Access repositories consist of disciplines' or institutions' archived research materials and which are made freely available to the public. The materials archived are not necessarily peer-reviewed by the repository, and may or may not have been published prior to being deposited into the repository.

The Mount Royal University Institutional Repository (MRUIR) launched in 2014, and acts as a showcase of the research, scholarship, teaching and learning, and creative contributions of MRU's faculty, staff, and students.

For a list of other Open Access repositories see see the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).

Open Access Publishing Models

The goal of Open Access is to make information freely available via the Web. To achieve this goal there are four main publishing models: author pays, research funder subsidies, institutional membership, and publishing support funds.

In the author pays model, journals charge an article-processing charge which requires the author to pay for an article's publication once it has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication. In the research funder subsidies model, a researcher may apply to a funding agency for funds to pay the this fee. In the institutional membership model, the institution for which the researcher works can pay a membership fee to a journal, allowing a certain number of articles to be published in that journal. In the publishing support funds model, organizations and institutions reimburse authors from a specific fund created for that purpose. There are many hybrids based on these four publishing models.

For information about publishing models see the section on the Open Access Information Platform website.

Author Rights

Open Access does not change author's rights: authors' works are still protected by copyright. In fact, in many ways authors who publish via an Open Access model retain more rights over their their works that when publishing under a traditional model. When authors agree to Open Access they agree to right of use, allowing unrestricted distribution (reading, downloading, copying, sharing, storing and printing) of the full-text work. Authors may choose to license their works under open content licensing, such as Creative Commons.

To search for permissions given by publishers as part of a publisher's copyright transfer agreement see the SHERPA/RoMEo (RightsMEtadata for Open archiving) tool. To see open licensing agreements, Creative Commons is the most common tool used by content creators.

Benefits and Concerns

There are a variety of benefits and challenges to the Open Access publishing model. One of the major benefits to Open Access publishing is the increased access the public has to scholarly research. And because of the increased access, authors who publish in Open Access publications enjoy increased citation rates. Disciplines also enjoy more international and cross-discipline collaboration when information is more freely available. There are other benefits due to increased ease of finding information through popular search engines, quick access to information, digital copies of documents (easy to store, transfer, etc.), amongst other advantages.

One of the common myths about Open Access publishing is that articles published in an Open Access journal will be considered of lower quality than those published in a traditional journal. Open Access journals may not be as well recognized as they are not as well established as some traditionally-published journals, however quality does not depend on the publishing model.

Why Libraries Are Involved

Libraries are involved in Open Access because libraries deal with access to and storage of information on a daily basis. Libraries purchase journals and the increasing cost of academic journals has meant problems for libraries to continue providing access. Libraries are also often involved in the creation of institutional repositories, as storing information is part of their purview. Libraries and library associations are very interested in the Open Access movement and can be a good source of information about Open Access.

For another perspective on Open Access from a library point of view see the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

Related Topics

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property includes patents, copyright, trade-marks and industrial design. These rights protect intangible subjects that are produced as a result of human creativity. Intellectual property rights mean that other people can be stopped from using the "property" and that the rights can be transferred. These rights may include what academics produce through their research, depending on a researcher's agreement with her/his institution.

Open Access does not change intellectual property rights. Authors will have to agree to give increased access required by Open Access publications, but this does not change authors' underlying rights. (See Copyright below.)

For information about intellectual property in Canada see the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.


Open Access works under the current copyright system. Authors, the copyright holders, may give their copyright to the public domain - allowing the general public to freely use their work - or license their work under Creative Commons.Authors can agree to have their work publically accessed or publically accessed and modified. The Canadian Copyright Act is available online.

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