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Scholarly Communication

What is Open Access?

There are a variety of definitions of "open access". As Peter Suber puts it, “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Open access can be made in different level from the basic level (free access) to the full level (free access and full reuse right). A spectrum of open access is showed below. Any questions regarding open access and open access support, please contact


What Open Access is not

- Open access doesn't mean low-quality, non-peer review. The quality of the content and whether not the content is peer-reviewed depends on the process of the journal, the editorial board, the author, the reviewers, etc.. not the access status.

- Open access doesn't mean no cost at all. Open Access means free to readers. But the costs of producing and distributing remain and is shifted.

- Open access doesn't strip away the copyright from the author. An author will still retain all the copyright of the work when making the content available. By using Creative Commons Licenses, an author can communicate with content users which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators.    

Why is Open Access important?

For one thing, Open Access means that more people can benefit from the scholarship.  Work published in Open Access journals and archives might be read by anyone who is interested, thus allowing academic research to have a greater impact on the world.

But Open Access is also one solution to a serious problem for university libraries - a problem that affects all of us in academia, whether we are aware of it or not.  That problem is the rising price of the work published in academic journals.

Traditionally, university libraries pay for peer reviewed journal subscriptions so that students and faculty can get easy and free access to the scholarship they need.  But in the past twenty years, as a more limited number of commercial publishers have taken over the publication of top-tier journals, the prices of subscriptions have skyrocketed, going up far faster than the rate of inflation.  At the same time, the overall number of journals has mushroomed, as journals pop up to cover ever more specialized subject matter.

The average cost of journals in may disciplines (especially in the areas of science, technology and medicine) is in the thousands, sometimes working out to hundreds of dollars per issue.  Some journals cost upwards of $20,000 annually.  Faced with high prices and sharp increases, libraries find themselves in a no-win situation.  Researchers in every discipline and specialty need access to particular journals, and there is usually no option of finding a less expensive competitor.  Many libraries' budgets for periodicals have been stretched thin, and eventually most will be forced to make substantial cuts in journal subscriptions or other library resources.  Everyone agrees that the current model of academic publishing is not going to last.

You can read more about this crisis in scholarly communications here.