Introduction to Open Access

What is open access?

Open access (OA) content is online, freely accessible, and has relatively few or no restrictions on reuse.

Why should I learn about open access?

Open access journals and presses have become an established part of the scholarly communication landscape. Learning about OA will help you make informed choices about where to publish your work.

How do I make my work open access?
  • Deposit your work in an online repository, such as Columbia's Academic Commons (this is called Green OA).
  • Publish your work in an OA journal or with an OA press (this is called Gold OA).
  • Publish your work using a hybrid OA model, where specific articles in a subscription-based journal are made open access in exchange for a fee.

Luis Villa, editor-in-chief of the 10th Volume of the Columbia Science and Technology Law Review, discusses the journal's switch to open access.
Is open access compatible with copyright law?

OA is compatible with copyright law and OA works are under copyright. Most OA journals and presses leave the copyright with the author or allow the author to retain significant rights to use the work. If you want to make your work OA by placing it in an online repository, make sure that you retain the right to do so in your publication agreement. See the Publication Agreements page on the Copyright Advisory Office website for more information.

What is the business model for open access publications?

As with subscription-based journals and print books, open-access journals and monographs rely on a variety of business models and funding sources, including subsidies from hosting entities, processing fees on accepted articles, institutional support, and advertising.

Are there high-quality open access presses?

Open access monographs are being published by digitalculturebooks at the University of Michigan, Athabasca Press, and the Open Humanities Press, among others.

Are open access journals peer reviewed?

Yes. The significant majority of open-access scholarly journals practice peer review as do the significant majority of subscription-based scholarly journals.

Are there high-quality open access journals?

Yes. As with subscription-based journals, the success of OA journals depends upon a reputation for publishing quality works. In some fields, OA journals are among the most prestigious.

Will I have to pay an article-processing fee if I publish in an open access journal?

Maybe. Though some of the more well-known OA journals (such as those from the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central) do charge fees, surveys show that the great majority of OA journals do not charge article-processing fees.

If I am subject to a fee, will I have to pay it from my personal funds?

Most research grants will fund OA article-processing fees. Columbia authors without such funding may be eligible for reimbursement for OA article-processing fees from the Columbia Open Access Publication Fund.

Monica Varman, 2010-11 Editor-in-Chief and Vignhnesh Subramanyan, 2010-11 Lead Senior Editor, discuss how open access fits into the philosophy and mission of Consilience, a journal of sustainable development based at Columbia University.

Open Access Resources

Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities  Statement calling for open access to the scientific literature and cultural resources from 2003.

Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing  Statement calling for open access to the primary scientific literature in biomedicine from 2003.

Budapest Open Access Initiative  Statement calling for open access to research and scholarship from 2001.

Directory of Open Access Journals  A searchable database of thousands of scholarly and scientific open journals.

OASIS  Comprehensive information about the theory and practice of open access.

Open Access Directory  Wiki that compiles lists of open access resources.

Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association  Organization supporting and respresenting open access publishers.

SHERPA/RoMEO  Database of publishers and journals that support open access.

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition  Alliance of research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

Right to Research Coalition  Student organization promoting an open scholarly publishing system.