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Open Access Publishing

What Is Open Access?

Open access refers to free, immediate, online access to information and additionally, information that is free from most copyright and licensing restrictions that prevent or complicate its use. Some commonly used open access terms include:

  • Green open access: when authors self-archive their works, for example, by adding a preprint to a disciplinary archive or sharing a post-print in an institutional repository (like VCU Scholars Compass)
  • Gold open access: when works are published in an open access journal and made open immediately on publication
  • Hybrid open access: when individual articles are made open access in an otherwise subscription access journal, usually for a fee
  • Preprint: the version of a scholarly work submitted for peer review that includes only the original work of the author(s)
  • Post-print: also known as the author's final version or accepted manuscript, this version incorporates all changes from peer review, but it has not yet been copyedited and formatted for final publication
  • Creative Commons: a nonprofit organization that creates licenses under which works are distributed with reused permissions granted upfront
  • Addendum: these are attached to publishing or copyright transfer agreements so authors can request additional rights beyond those already granted by the publisher (like the SPARC Author Addendum)

Common terms adapted from Molly Keener's Open Access Guide from Wake Forest University's Z. Smith Reynolds Library.

Why Open Access?

Open access:

  • Promotes accelerated discovery, allowing researchers to read and build on findings without delay or restriction.
  • Provides an alternative to high-cost, unsustainable commercial publishing.
  • Removes paywall barriers, enabling more equitable access for students and researchers throughout the world.
  • Satisfies requirement of many public and private funding agencies to make articles open access.

Learn more about the benefits of open access from SPARC Impact Stories.

What Problem is Open Access Addressing?

What is the problem? Universities (funded by taxpayers and tuition) and grant funders pay faculty to do research and report on results in articles. Faculty give away articles and copyright to publishers for free, and other researchers peer review for free. Publishers rake in all the money, and it is big money. Many students, researchers, and others still can't get the articles they need and libraries cannot afford many journals.

What is the Problem? Infographic. Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue, 
used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

Open Access Week

Open Access Week is an opportunity for the international academic and research community to learn about the benefits of Open Access, share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and inspire wider participation to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.