What is Open Access?
Open Access is a global movement that aims to make scholarly research freely accessible and easily disseminated by removing paywall barriers, journal subscription expenses and publishing fees.
Open Access encourages information sharing by enabling research to reach a wider audience and facilitates collaboration among academics.
The most common types of OA are gold, green and hybrid.
Gold OA: Publishers allow the material to be made freely available at the point of publication
Green OA: The author self-archives their research in an institutional or subject repository
Hybrid: Some journals offer both open and subscription-only articles
Transformative agreement: An umbrella term referring to a negotiation between an institution and a publisher to support open access publishing
OA Textbooks vs OER
Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning, teaching and research materials that are openly licensed.
While both Open Access and OER share the ethos of the open movement- which is to remove financial barriers to information, they are used to that end in different ways.
The 5 “Rs” of OER are “reuse, retain, revise, remix, redistribute”. As these resources are openly licensed, students and teachers may adapt and reuse them depending on their needs. OER generally refers to textbooks and course materials that educators can adapt to facilitate learning.
Open Access, on the other hands, enables free or low cost access to research materials such as journal articles. In this way, Open Access allows up-to -date scientific knowledge to be shared more easily among academics.
2003 The Berlin Declaration
EU member states sign an agreement promoting fundamental rights and democratic values in the digital sphere
2012 The San Francisco Declaration
A commitment to improve the manner in which scholarly outputs are evaluated, the the aim of counteracting prestige publishing culture
2013 Science Europe Roadmap
A roadmap for transitioning to Open Access
2017 EU H2020 Program
European Commission Guidelines to Open Access
2018 Coalition S
A commitment that all publicly funded research within the EU will published in Open Access journals by 2021
April 2020 Open Covid Pledge
International research bodies resolve to make all Covid research open access
May 2020 WHO Solidarity Call to Action
To realize equitable global access to COVID-19 health technologies through pooling of knowledge, intellectual property and data
October 2020 U.N. sign Open Science declaration
Moving to Open Access as the norm
By 2025, it is predicted that 44% of journals in the E.U. and 70% of article views will be open. There have been 17 transformative agreements made by Irish academic institutions and publishers since 2019. As we move towards an OA future, the focus is turning away from making resarch open after publication, but rather publishing with an intention to create OA content.
Covid 19 and the Open Movement
In January 2020, 117 international research organisations committed to immediate open access for peer reviewed publications relating to Covid 19. The Open Covid Pledge was launched in April 2020. Following this, many more agencies and public bodies have facilitated open access research to fight the Covid 19 pandemic.
The COVID 19 pandemic has shone a light on the importance of open science – as researchers have been compelled to collaborate, share knowledge and build off of each others' work, the benefits of open science can be clearly seen by the advancements that have been made in the fight against COVID 19 in a short space of time. In fact, the first article to identify the Covid 19 genome was an open access one, published only a month after the first covid patient was admitted to a Wuhan hospital.
Working online and the digitalisation of knowledge
As academic institutions moved online after March 2020, access to digital resources became vital. Exorbitant eBook and journal subscription costs has led to a growing demand for OA textbooks.
“Publish or Perish” culture: Only 20% of PHD students can expect to get a job in academia. There is pressure to publish as many articles as possible in “high- prestige” journals in order to obtain a faculty position . Open Access journals have historically carried the stigma of being “low prestige” and of lower quality. This had lead to some researchers choosing subscription journals to give their article the best chance of visibility.
OA indexes such as DOAJ can mediate this perception by curating high quality, peer reviewed open access journals.
Social inequities: While OA policies improves accessibility for developing nations to some extent, transformative agreements favour wealthy, high-prestige institutions and has implications for those who cannot afford to attend a large third level institution.
Global disparities: The United States and China produce the most research in the world but have the lowest OA outputs. At the same time, the EU is on track to become an Open Access standard as the movement gathers momentum here.
Resistance from academic publishers: Large academic publishers have a profit margin of 37% - more than Google or Facebook. Subscription journals are a lucrative business.