About Open Access
OA or open access is the term used for referring to the online research outputs which are free from various access restrictions, for example access fee, and can also be used freely without any usage restrictions (related to licensing and copyright). The term is applicable to all kinds of formally published research work including the non-peer-reviewed and peer-reviewed conference papers, monographs, book chapters, academic journal articles and theses.
Open access can be categorized into two different degrees: gratis open access referring to the online access that is free of cost, and libre open access that is free of cost too, but with several added usage rights. These extra usage rights are usually granted through specific licenses issued by the Creative Commons.
Libre open access is also considered equivalent to the open access as it’s defined by Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities and Budapest Open Access Initiative.
Authors are allowed to provide open access to their work in multiple ways. One way is by publishing their work and then self-archiving it inside a repository (for instance a central repository like PubMed Central or their institutional repository), where people can access it for free. This method of providing open access is referred to as green open access. However, some publishers make an embargo or a delay mandatory in cases where the research output held inside a repository needs to be made open access.
Another method in which authors can provide open access to their work is by publishing it in a way that their research becomes instantly available through the publisher. This method of providing open access is referred to as gold open access. In the context of scientific journals, it usually takes the form of article publishing either via hybrid open access journal or open access journal. The former is a type of journal which is mainly subscription-based and provides gold open access only to those particular articles which have been submitted with a specific fee (paid either by the author’s funder or his/her institution) referred to as article processing charge. Journals which are purely open access in nature don’t have any subscription fee associated with them and usually have a single business model. Nevertheless, a good majority of them do charge a minimal article processing fee.
The open access movement was mainly fuelled by the widespread popularity of easy public access made possible by the advent of World Wide Web or Internet during the late 90s and early 2000’s. Such boon in the online world prompted the creation of both gold open access journals and green open access journals (involving self-archiving). The traditional non-open access journals normally cover their publishing costs by charging a fee for pay-per-view, site licenses or subscriptions. Some of the open access journals operate in a manner that open access is provided only after an embargo period lasting for 6 to 12 months is over, or sometimes even longer (in which case they’re referred to as delayed open access journals).
The reliability and economics of different ways of providing open access has been actively debated since a long time now. This debate can be seen happening among researchers, university administrators, commercial publishers, society publishers, academics, librarians, funding agencies, editorial staff and various government officials.