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Research Guides

Issues in Scholarly Communication

Open Access Defined

Quick definition

"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment." (SPARC, CC BY 4.0, emphasis added)

Detailed definition

Open access to literature is “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. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.” (Budapest Open Access Initiative, CC BY 3.0, emphasis added) 


Basic Types of Open Access 

Green open access is through repositories separate from journal publishers. Journal publishers may embargo an author's work for a period of time before the author is able to make their work accessible through a repository, usually in manuscript format.

Gold open access is through open access journals, where articles are freely accessibly immediately upon publication.

A hybrid open access journal is one that charges a subscription/access fee, but also gives authors the option to publish individual articles as open access. Readers then get free access to some but not all content, and publishers collect revenue from author-side fees and reader-side subscriptions.

Related Terms

Open Data

"Open Data is research data that is freely available on the internet permitting any user to download, copy, analyse, re-process, pass to software or use for any other purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself." (SPARC, CC BY 4.0)


Open Education

"Open Education encompasses resources, tools and practices that are free of legal, financial and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared and adapted in the digital environment." (SPARC, CC BY 4.0)

Open Science

Facets of open science

"Open Science is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods." (FOSTER, CC BY 4.0)






Facets of open science (FOSTER)