Skip to main content

Scholarly Publishing & Open Access: Open Access

This guide provides an introduction to open access and various issues connected to it, including copyright.

What's Open Access

The open access movement seeks to make scientific knowledge available to anyone online, not just those whose institution can afford a subscription to expensive scholarly journals. OA has a range of levels, from something that's free to read to an item that has been licensed for any reuse.

See A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access by Peter Suber's and the FAQ on open access by the Authors Alliance to learn more.

Want to learn even more? Read the book Understanding Open Access by the Authors Alliance. The electronic version is open access and free to download. For a more in-depth look of how to practice open science in general, check out The Open Science Training Handbook.

Benefits of Open Access

Although open access seeks to help everyone, studies show that publishing OA helps researchers as well.

Open Access Myths

1. OA journals aren't peer-reviewed.

Open access has no bearing on whether a journal is peer-reviewed or not. The Directory of Open Access Journals has a list of thousands of OA journals that are peer-reviewed.

2. I have to pay a fee to publish in an OA journal.

Some OA journals do charge a fee, often called an article processing charge, but they're actually in the minority. According to the DOAJ database, only about 25 percent to 30 percent of OA journals charge a fee. If you do want to publish in a journal that charges a fee, check with your grant funder as many of them - including the federal government - will cover that charge.

3. I can't publish OA because I need to get tenure.

Although a number of OA journals are now considered some of the best journals in their disciplines, you don't have to publish in one to take part in OA. Many traditional publishers allow authors to post copies of their works online in personal websites, subject repositories and institutional repositories like the University of Nevada, Reno's ScholarWorks. Learn more about archiving your work.

4. OA violates copyright.

OA actually works within the copyright law. For instance, most OA journals use Creative Commons licenses to ensure authors retain their full copyright while giving everyone legal permission to reuse their works in ways they approve. Many traditional publishers also allow online repositories to include articles from their journals.

5. Everyone who needs access to my article has it already.

Because of rising journal prices, not every university library is able to subscribe to all scholarly journals, including the Knowledge Center. Libraries can request articles through Interlibrary Loan, but even this has limitations. Researchers in other countries and those who don't belong to an institution, policymakers, professional practitioners and even regular citizens who are interested in a research topic don't have access to these journals. Find out how OA helps everyone read your work.

Social Sciences Librarian

Guide Licensing

Creative Commons License
University of Nevada, Reno Scholarly Communication and Open Access Guide by Teresa Auch Schultz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.