Open Access De-Mystified - Part I

by Cheryl Truesdell

This month begins a series of articles on the Open Access (OA) Movement. The OA Movement seeks to provide scholarly literature online, free of charge and free of most copyright restrictions. It is a particularly opportune time to introduce this topic, because the deadline (May 4, 2012) for faculty to submit their 2011 scholarly and creative accomplishments to Opus, IPFW's open access repository, is quickly approaching. Many Faculty and administrators do not realize that Opus adds IPFW as a participant in a burgeoning OA Movement, and what that means to the dissemination of scholarly literature.

Part I: The Open Access Movement

In January 2012, a distinguished mathematician at the University of Cambridge began a protest against Elsevier's ruthless business practices, exorbitantly high prices, and lobbying efforts against open access. In the past four months, over 9,000 faculty across the world have signed an online pledge that they will not support any Elsevier journal, including publishing, editorial work, and refereeing unless the publisher radically changes how it operates. 

This protest movement is just the latest in a long history of initiatives aimed at providing world-wide, barrier–free access to scientific and scholarly literature. According to some timelines, the Open Access (OA) movement can be traced back as far as 1966, but the number and variety of OA initiatives has increased significantly in the last 15 years. 

Certainly the expansion of the Internet and its ability to distribute information instantly throughout the world is a major driving force, but the growing number of scholars and scientists who are resisting a deeply entrenched process of scientific and scholarly research publishing that restricts rather than facilitates, free exchange of ideas is fundamental and critical to its success. 

The OA movement has growing support from scholarly societies, universities, and individual faculty. In 2000 there were around 19,500 articles published OA, but by 2009 almost 200,000 articles were available OA, a 30% increase. In 2011 over 500 scholarly societies published over 600 OA journals (Open Access Journals from Society Publishers, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 12-02-2011). Many universities are signatories to Open Access initiatives, such as the Bethesda, Budapest and Berlin declarations, a growing number of faculty senates are vowing to archive their research articles in open access institutional repositories, and many individual faculty, such as those joining the Cost of Knowledge boycott, are refusing to publish, referee or edit commercial journals that inhibit the free exchange of research. 

OA initiatives seek to eliminate two primary barriers to the free exchange of information:

  • Price barriers -- subscription, licensing fees, pay-per-view fees 
  • Permission barriers -- copyright and licensing fees

Today there are varying degrees of Open Access compliance ranging from no-cost access, but some copyright or licensing restriction barriers remain to free of charge and copyright permission to use a work for any lawful purpose subject to proper attribution of scholarship. What falls in between this range is a myriad of Open Access options. Those options can be categorized into two primary methods for providing open access to research articles:

  • Open Access Journals (Gold OA Publishing): journals that provide OA to peer-reviewed articles without delay 
  • Open Access Repositories (Green OA Archiving): a peer-reviewed version (refereed, revised final draft, or publisher's print version) of the article archived for free public use in a disciplinary or institutional repository

Watch for an overview of OA publishing in the May issue of Helmke Highlights.