OA (Open Access) aims to make academic research outputs available electronically, immediately, without charge and free from most copyright or licensing restrictions.
OA content is often published under a Creative Commons licence, e.g. CC BY. This means the creator of the content should still be credited for their work.
OA can be applied to all forms of published research output, including peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed academic journal articles, conference papers, theses, book chapters, and monographs.
Recent years have seen a major global movement develop to minimise access barriers, encouraged by the opportunities that internet technologies bring.
It is felt by many that publically funded research should be easily available, not only to other researchers but also to members of the public. This belief is being reflected in grant conditions specified by various funding bodies, notably the Wellcome Trust and most of the Research Councils in the UK (UKRI). These bodies are stipulating that individuals in receipt of research grants must deposit their research results in freely available research repositories, either discipline based or institutional.
It is also a requirement of Research England (formerly HEFCE) to make sure that from 1 April 2018, outputs deposited in research reposoitories immediately or no later than 3 months after acceptance for inclusion in REF 2021.
Research repositories, also known as open archives, may include theses, research papers, conference papers and books. Research articles can be deposited as pre-prints, post-prints or both. These repositories should comply with the OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting) protocol so that documents can be located from any internet access point.
The Open Access reading list provides links to the key research repositories.
Subject repositories are organised around a discipline so will contain research material from a number of different institutions.
The Open Access reading list provides links to the key subject repositories.
Institutional archives contain research material which will normally have been self-archived by the individual researchers involved, e.g. the University of Bedfordshire repository. Universities across the world are setting up their own repositories so that the output of their researchers can be made available to anyone.
Directories exist to facilitate access to all repositories wherever they are based and whatever the subject.
The Open Access reading list provides links to the key directories.
Tools exist in order to search these Open Access repositories. The major examples are provided on the OA reading list.
There are a number of plug-ins (alternatively known as web browser extensions) which you can drag and drop onto your toolbar. These will identify search results where there is an OA full-text available. They are easy to use and work very well with Google Scholar and other large search engines and databases. Click on the links to Kopernio and Unpaywall to find out more, and to install the browser extensions.
The other main vehicle for reducing the barriers to research results has been the introduction of online open access journals. Unlike the traditional system of financing journals, the costs are not paid by the reader (or the library) thus maximising access. An important point is that peer review is maintained.
Books are now starting to be published in open access schemes, particularly in humanities subjects.
Links to OA book directories are listed on the reading list.