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.
University of Cambridge has created an easily and quick to read Brief History of OA with more details.
Open Access Textbooks (OA Textbooks)
Open access textbooks are free for students to read online, and usually free to download. While both Open Access Textbooks and OERs share the ethos of the OA movement, OA Textbooks differ from OERs. OA Textbooks can be shared freely with students at no cost to the student or the institution but cannot be revised, adapted, or transformed.
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.