What Open Access is?

These days I’m attending a very interesting online course: Open Science: an introduction on https://p2pu.org/en/, collecting and organizing open content to build a University for the web (on the main page of the website you can read: “A University for the Web. Built by an open community. LEARNING BY EVERYONE. FOR EVERYONE. ABOUT ALMOST ANYTHING. COMPLETELY FREE.”).

This post (and—if I find other time—others will follow), is a way to interact and exchange ideas with the organizers and the other students.

Here is the original version in italian.

What Open Access is?

The word Open Access, broadly refers to the possibiliy to access as freely as possible various digital contents. In particular it is used mainly referring to online availability of peer-reviewd scholarly research.

As defined by Peter Suber in his “Very brief introduction to Open Access“:

“Open Access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and mostly free of copyright and licensing restrictions.”

In this definition we found various elements that help us to go deeper into different aspects of Open access:

  • literature: it mainly refers to publications
  • digital: we’re not talking about paper books in libraries;
  • online: the access is through internet;
  • gratis: contents are accessed without limitations related to subscription costs, etc.
  • mostly free of copyright and licensing restrictions: contents can be read, reused, shared etc. without limitations

Why Open Access is important?

When we talk about scholarly research, we refer to studies from individual researchers of research groups usually paid by public funds. These results are collected in scientific articles that, after a control and revision process,  are published in specialised journals (e.g. Nature, Science).

Every result coming from scientific research has (or should have) as the mail goal the best dissemination towards all possible users. When we talk about public funded research, it should be obviuos that such information should be made available and reusable as freely as possible  to continuously improve scientific knowledge and its positive impact on society.

Unfortunately, most scientific journals make available research articles under a paywall and with strong limitations for the reuse of their content.  This is valid also for the researchers themselves, that, through their academic and research institutions, pay expensive subscriptions to be able to access to scientific results published from their colleagues.

The Open Access movement has as a goal to break this absurd chain and make scientific knowledge available to everyone.

As described in Wikipedia:

Open access comes in two degrees:

  • Gratis open access: No-cost online access
  • Libre open access: Gratis open access plus some additional usage rights

Additionally, open access can be provided in two ways:

  • Green open access self-archiving: Authors publish in any journal and then self-archive a version of the article for gratis public use in their institutional repository, in a central repository (such as PubMed Central), or on some other open access website. What is deposited is the peer-reviewed postprint – either the author’s refereed, revised final draft or the publisher’s version of record.
  • Gold open access publishing: Authors publish in an open access journal that provides immediate open access to all of its articles on the publisher’s website. (Hybrid open access journals provide Gold open access only for those individual articles for which their authors (or their author’s institution or funder) pay an open access publishing fee).

Various declarations and documents have been produced during last years to support this approach. Here I list some international and national (Italian) ones:

The number of journals and articles published as Open Access is growing and is well described also in scientific articles as “A longitudinal comparison of citation rates and growth among open access journals“.



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