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Open Access and Open Educational Resources: The Basics


  What is Open Access?

The Open Access movement is dedicated to providing unrestricted access to scholarly materials in all disciplines. 

There are a few definitions...

  • "the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use the articles fully in the digital environment" -- SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition)  
  • "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions" --Peter Suber, Open Access Overview
  • Referring to work "which scholars give to the world without expectation of payment," the Budapest Open Access Initiative calls for 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" --Budapest Open Access Initiative

...but they all refer to scholarly research being made

  1. freely available
  2. free to redistribute and reuse

OA logo by art designer at PLoS, modified by Wikipedia users Nina, Beao, and JakobVoss -, CC0,

Why Open Access?

Open access helps authors because:

  1. It helps you find a bigger audience! Publishing behind a paywall only gets you access to those who can get past it.
  2. It makes your research available across the globe! Researchers at institutions in the Global South often rely heavily on open access materials.
  3. You might get more citations. Studies show that openly available research may be cited more than work behind a paywall.
  4. It's shareable and linkable! Ever wanted to share a link to your work on social media or put it on your website? It's easy with open access -- you won't have to send your readers through a complex login process or to somewhere they have to pay.
  5.  You are supporting a better scholarly ecosystem

Open access helps readers (scholars, students, and other people in the world) because: 

  1. It doesn't rely on readers having institutional access or personal funds.
  2. It's easier to access -- it doesn't require traversing complex login procedures or waiting on Interlibrary Loan.
  3. A lot of readers -- both students and faculty -- use search engines like Google Scholar for research, and OA materials can easily be found and accessed there.
  4. It allows access to the full text, so readers don't have to guess whether something is relevant based on its abstract. 

Open Access FAQ

Q: Are open access journals scholarly and reliable? Will they help me get tenure? 

A: YES, if you chose the right ones! Excellent, scholarly open access journals have flourished on the web. Of course, that doesn't mean every journal is great. Anytime you are thinking about publishing with a journal (OA or toll-access), you should evaluate it carefully.  Tools like Think. Check. Submit. can help you do this. 

Q: What if the journal in which I want to publish isn't OA?

A: That's fine! Most publishers allow some form of self-archiving -- that is, posting some version of your work for the public.  CUNY Academic Works is here to help you do this. If you don't know whether your publisher allows this, or which version you can post, please check Sherpa/RoMEO, which indexes journal policies.

Q: Does open access cost a lot of money?

A: Not necessarily. SOME open access journals have article processing charges, but by no means all of them.  AND self-archiving, mentioned above, is free. 

The Problem

“What is the Problem?” by Jill Cirasella.Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial.


Creative Commons License
Open Access and Open Educational Resources: The Basics by Nancy Foasberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Problems with the Subscription Model

The traditional model of scholarly publishing relies on journal subscriptions and book purchases. Colleges and universities pay scholars to produce research and provide reviewing and editorial services, while the publishers distribute that work to libraries (and sometimes individuals) for a fee.

Over time, some problems have arisen with this model:

  • We are paying twice for scholarly work, especially journal articles.  Authors, reviewers and editors give their work to the publisher for free, while the publisher charges their libraries high subscription fees for the journal. 
  • The work that we do is limited to those who have institutional access. 
  • Scholarly articles and books are difficult to discover because they are hidden away in toll-access databases.
  • Commercial publishers raise their prices continuously and steeply. This is not sustainable.
  • Granting agencies often require that the results of the research they fund be made available to the public
  • Traditional publishing seldom provides opportunities to publish new and exciting formats

Open access publishing attempts to solve some of these problems by making scholarly research freely available, without access or licensing restrictions. 

Open Access at CUNY