What Is Open Access?
Charles W. Bailey, Jr.
To further the development of knowledge, scholars require access to relevant scholarly literature. Increasingly, this literature is interdisciplinary, global, expensive, digital, and hidden behind technical walls to comply with license restrictions. It is also burgeoning.
Little wonder that even scholars at the richest universities in the world have difficulty accessing the specialized literature that they need, while those at the poorest barely have any access at all.
What can be done? The open access movement believes it has an answer to this critical question. Many of its prominent figures have little or no interest in reforming the existing scholarly communication system. Rather, they are interested in transforming it so that it can function effectively in the rapidly changing technological environment.1
"Open Access" Defined
There are a variety of definitions of "open access," and the concept is still evolving; however, several key documents, which build upon each other, collectively comprise the best current definition of this term.
The Budapest Open Access Initiative
In December 2001, the Open Society Institute convened a meeting of prominent scholarly communication change agents in Budapest that strongly influenced the nascent open access movement. The result of this meeting was the "Budapest Open Access Initiative" (BOAI). Its definition of open access (OA), while refined by subsequent documents, remains the most influential one to this day:
Examining this definition, we note several key points. First, open access works are freely available. Second, they are "online," which would typically mean that they are digital documents available on the Internet. Third, they are scholarly works—romance novels, popular magazines, self-help books, and the like are excluded. Fourth, the authors of these works are not paid for their efforts. Fifth, since most (but not all) authors of peer-reviewed journal articles are not paid and such works are scholarly, these articles are identified as the primary type of open access material. Sixth, there are an extraordinary number of permitted uses for open access materials. Aside from the requirements of proper attribution of the author and the assurance of the integrity of the work, users can copy and distribute open access works without constraint. Seventh, there are two key open access strategies: self-archiving and open access journals (these will be discussed in detail later).
Peter Suber characterizes the core concept of open access this way: open access removes "price barriers" (e.g., subscription fees) and "permission barriers" (e.g., copyright and licensing restrictions) to "royalty-free literature" (i.e., scholarly works created for free by authors), making them available with "minimal use restrictions" (e.g., author attribution).3
Why are open access works only digital? After the creation of the first digital copy of a work, the cost of creating additional copies and distributing them on the Internet is marginal. This contrasts with paper-based publishing, which not only entails meaningful paper-copy production costs, but also physical storage and distribution costs.
Are all free digital documents "open access" documents? Just because a digital document is freely available, does not mean that the copyright owner has given consent for the types of permissive uses envisioned in the BOAI. Nor does the absence of a copyright statement necessarily mean that a digital document is in the public domain, and the user should assume that the document is under full copyright until a full investigation of the copyright status of the work is conducted. If a free digital document does not have a license or special copyright statement that specifically grants additional rights, the user's rights are limited by standard copyright provisions, the most relevant right being fair use (or fair dealing in the UK).
However, it should be noted that some influential open access proponents, such as Stevan Harnad, assert that free access alone is sufficient to constitute open access.4
The Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing
Another landmark meeting was held in April 2003 at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It resulted in the "Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing," which extended the definition of open access. The key section of the Bethesda Statement says:
The Bethesda Statement builds upon the BOAI, but how does it differ from it?
The BOAI does not indicate how copyright owners will operationalize the open access concept. Aside from being able to access it freely, how will users know that a specific work is an "open access" work? By contrast, the Bethesda Statement specifies that copyright owners will grant users certain rights under licenses, and these rights shall be "free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual." A license is a contract, with terms and conditions that describe permitted uses. As such, it supercedes users' copyright rights if it specifies terms and conditions that negate them.
One such right under the Bethesda Statement, which the BOAI doesn't specify, is the right to make derivative works. For example, a work could be translated into another language without requiring permission.
Certain Creative Commons licenses can be used to grant open access rights.6 For example, the Creative Commons Attribution License gives users a "worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual" license to reproduce and distribute works and to create derivative works from them in all existing and future media, subject to certain conditions such as author attribution, retention of the original copyright statement, and provision of the license or a link to it (the license also grants other rights). The license states that: "Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws."7 A variety of other "open content" licenses also exist.8
The Bethesda Statement also introduces the requirement that open access documents be deposited in digital repositories in "well-established" organizations, as opposed to author home pages or digital archives whose long-term prospects are in doubt. These repositories will engage in "long-term archiving." In other words, they will digitally preserve open access documents.
Again, some open access advocates assert that these two broad requirements are not necessary for open access.9
The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities
In October 2003, the Conference on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities issued the "Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities." Although there are minor differences between the Bethesda Statement and the Berlin Declaration, they essentially say the same thing. The reader is urged to read the original text for details.10
A follow-up meeting, Berlin 3 Open Access: Progress in Implementing the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities, issued the following statement in March 2005:
The BBB Definition of Open Access
Peter Suber refers to the collective BOAI, Bethesda Statement, and Berlin Declaration open access definitions as the "BBB definition of open access,"12 and he notes that this definition "removes both price and permission barriers."13 However, Suber asserts elsewhere that: "Removing price barriers alone will give most OA proponents most of what they want and need."14
It should be noted that open access is rooted in existing copyright law: copyright owners permit users to freely access their works and grant them additional rights that remove permission barriers. Open access does not require that copyright laws change in order for it to exist.15
Other Views of Open Access
There have been numerous additional open access declarations and statements by various groups that further contribute to our understanding of open access, including the "Access to Research Publications: Universities UK Position Statement,"16 "Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee Open Access Statement,"17 Group of Eight's "Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Information,"18 "IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation,"19 "Messina Declaration,"20 "Scottish Declaration of Open Access,"21" "Washington D.C. Principles for Free Access to Science,"22 and World Summit on the Information Society's "Declaration of Principles"23 and "Plan of Action"24 (see Peter Suber's "Timeline of the Open Access Movement" for others25).
Peter Suber has speculated that open access will extend its scope of coverage in three phases, with "royalty-producing literature" being included in phase two and copyright reform that expands the public domain occurring in phase three.26
In practice, a wide range of scholarly works beyond preprints and postprints (e.g., books, conference presentations, electronic theses and dissertations, and technical reports) are currently freely available on the Internet, some of which are under Creative Commons or similar licenses.
Self-Archiving is the first open access strategy identified by the BOAI. Stevan Harnad refers to it as the "Green Road" to open access,27 and this term has come into common usage.
When authors make their articles freely available in digital form on the Internet, they are said to be "self-archiving" them.28 These articles can be either "preprints" or "postprints."
Preprints are draft versions of articles that have not undergone peer review or editorial review and modification. Most preprints are intended for submission to journals, but some are not. The exchange of preprints among authors, especially scientific authors, has a long history and, prior to the Web, was done by postal service mail, fax, e-mail, FTP servers, Gopher servers, and other means.29
Postprints are the final published versions of articles. They can either be the publisher's version of the article or an updated preprint that the author creates to reflect any changes made during the peer review and editorial processes.
Authors can make digital postprints available because either: (1) they have retained copyright and only granted certain nonexclusive rights to publishers, (2) they have transferred all rights to publishers, but publishers' policies permit authors to distribute preprints under specified terms and conditions (most publishers now have such self-archiving policies), or (3) they have modified the preprint using errata/corrigenda (other less common variations are also possible).
Publisher self-archiving policies are quite diverse. Stevan Harnad groups and codes them as follows: "gold (provides OA to its research articles, without delay), green (permits postprint archiving by authors), pale green (permits, i.e. doesn't oppose, preprint archiving by authors), gray (none of the above)."30 The SHERPA Project maintains a public database of publishers' self-archiving policies.31
Both digital preprints and postprints are called "e-prints."
Although the open access movement focuses on peer-reviewed literature, the term "e-print" is also widely used to refer to digital versions of articles that will be or have been published in scholarly, but non-peer-reviewed journals and magazines.
Moreover, other types of scholarly digital materials, such as conference presentations (e.g., PowerPoint presentations), may be said to be "self-archived" by their authors.
The most common ways that e-prints are made available on the Internet are: (1) authors' personal Websites, (2) disciplinary archives, (3) institutional-unit archives, or (4) institutional repositories.32
These self-archiving strategies are not mutually exclusive. An author may self-archive the same e-print in a personal author Website, a disciplinary archive, an institutional-unit archive, and an institutional repository. Doing so increases the likelihood that it will be found by interested users. With the exception of the personal Website, this act of self-archiving is referred to as "depositing" the e-print.
While helpful, the below classification of self-archiving strategies is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive. Given the increasingly powerful capabilities of archiving and repository systems and the fecund imaginations their users, self-archiving strategies are constantly evolving.
Let's look briefly at the main self-archiving strategies:
Some universities, such as Queensland University of Technology33 and the Universidade do Minho,34 have mandated self-archiving by their scholars. The "Institutional Self-Archiving Policy Registry"35 provides access to university self-archiving policies.
Self-Archiving Copyright Practices
Although e-prints are freely available, their authors do not follow consistent copyright notice or license practices, and, consequently, they may have: "(1) no copyright statement (under US law they are under copyright by default); (2) a conventional copyright statement; (3) a copyright statement that is modified by specific use provisions (e.g., liberal use permitted for noncommercial purposes); (4) a Creative Commons or other license, which may or may not permit commercial use or derivative works; or (5) another variation."36
Open Access Journals
Open access journals are the second open access strategy identified by the BOAI. Stevan Harnad refers to open access journals as the "Gold Road" to open access.37
"Open Access Journals" Defined
Open access journals have the following characteristics: (1) they are scholarly, (2) they utilize quality control mechanisms like those of conventional journals (e.g., editorial oversight and copy editing), (3) they are digital; (4) they are freely available, (5) they may allow authors to retain their copyrights, and (6) they may use Creative Commons or similar licenses.38
There is some dispute as to whether open access journals must utilize peer review as a quality control mechanism. Most do, but there are also some high-quality journals that don't and meet all other criteria, yet have great impact on their fields of study. D-Lib Magazine is an example of such a journal.39
Likewise, the question of whether the journal must use a Creative Commons or similar license is another area of dispute. This dispute reflects the deeper, fundamental question of whether "open access" is just free access or free access plus a set of specified use rights that go significantly beyond normal copyright rights.
The Directory of Open Access Journals, which is published by Lund University Libraries, provides access to about 2,000 digital journals that have been classified as open access journals based on stated criteria.40 Open access journals may also be included in conventional index and abstract databases.
Types of Open Access Journal Publishers
The major types of open access journal publishers are: (1) born-OA publishers, (2) conventional publishers, and (3) non-traditional publishers.41 The same disclaimers apply to this taxonomy as were indicated for the self-archiving one.
Let's examine these types of open access journal publishers in more detail:
Open Access Journals' Copyright Practices
Although the ideal is for open access journals to use a Creative Commons or similar license for their articles, the reality is that they can use a variety of copyright strategies that mirror those described earlier for self-archived e-prints.
Learning More About Open Access
An annotated listing of a wide range of resources about open access (e.g., bibliographies, directories, e-journals, FAQs, mailing lists, organizations, overviews, specialized search engines, projects, programs for developing countries, and Weblogs) can be found in the "Open Access Webliography."49
1. Peter Suber, "Open Access Overview: Focusing on Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Research Articles and Their Preprints," http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm.
2. Budapest Open Access Initiative, "Budapest Open Access Initiative," 14 February 2002, http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml.
3. Suber, "Open Access Overview: Focusing on Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Research Articles and Their Preprints."
4. Stevan Harnad, "Re: Free Access vs. Open Access," SPARC-IR, 15 December 2003, https://mx2.arl.org/Lists/SPARC-IR/Message/167.html.
5. "Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing," 20 June 2003, http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/bethesda.htm.
6. Creative Commons, "Creative Commons Licenses," http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses.
7. Creative Commons, "Attribution 2.5," http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/.
8. Lawrence Liang, "A Guide To Open Content Licences," http://pzwart.wdka.hro.nl/mdr/research/lliang/open_content_guide.
9. Harnad, "Re: Free Access vs. Open Access."
10. "Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities," 22 October 2003, http://www.zim.mpg.de/openaccess-berlin/berlindeclaration.html.
11. "Berlin 3 Open Access: Progress in Implementing the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities," 1 March 2005, http://www.eprints.org/events/berlin3/.
12. Peter Suber, "Praising Progress, Preserving Precision," SPARC Open Access Newsletter, no. 77 (2004), http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/09-02-04.htm#progress.
14. Suber, "Open Access Overview: Focusing on Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Research Articles and Their Preprints."
16. Universities UK, "Access to Research Publications: Universities UK Position Statement," 8 September 2005, http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/mediareleases/show.asp?MR=431.
17. Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee, "Australian Research Information Infrastructure Committee Open Access Statement," 17 December 2004, http://www.caul.edu.au/scholcomm/OpenAccessARIICstatement.doc.
18. Group of Eight, "Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Information," 25 May 2004, http://www.go8.edu.au/news/2004/Go8 Statement on open access to scholarly information May %85.pdf.
19. International Federation of Library Associations, "IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation," 24 February 2004, http://www.ifla.org/V/cdoc/open-access04.html.
20. "Messina Declaration," 5 November 2004, http://www.aepic.it/conf/viewappendix.php?id=49&ap=1&cf=1.
21. Scottish Science Information Strategy Working Group, "Scottish Declaration of Open Access," 11 October 2004, http://scurl.ac.uk/WG/OATS/declaration.htm.
22. "Washington D.C. Principles for Free Access to Science," 16 March 2004, http://www.dcprinciples.org/statement.htm.
23. World Summit on the Information Society, "Declaration of Principles," 12 December 2003, http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc_single-en-1161.asp.
24. World Summit on the Information Society, "Plan of Action," 12 December 2003, http://www.itu.int/wsis/documents/doc_single-en-1160.asp.
25. Peter Suber, "Timeline of the Open Access Movement," http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/timeline.htm.
26. Peter Suber, "Creating an Intellectual Commons through Open Access," http://dlc.dlib.indiana.edu/archive/00001246/01/suberrev052804.pdf.
27. Stevan Harnad, "Fast-Forward on the Green Road to Open Access: The Case against Mixing Up Green and Gold," Ariadne, no. 42 (2005), http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue42/harnad/.
28. Budapest Open Access Initiative, "Self-Archiving FAQ," http://www.eprints.org/self-faq/.
29. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals (Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, 2005), xvii, http://www.digital-scholarship.com/oab/oab.htm.
30. Suber, "Open Access Overview: Focusing on Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Research Articles and Their Preprints."
31. Sherpa Project, "Publisher Copyright Policies & Self-Archiving," http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php.
32. Bailey, Jr., Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals, xvii-xviii.
33. EPrints.org, "OA Self-Archiving Policy: Queensland University of Technology," http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/policysignup/fullinfo.php?inst=Queensland%20University%20of%20Technology.
34. EPrints.org, "OA Self-Archiving Policy: Universidade do Minho, Portugal," http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/policysignup/fullinfo.php?inst=Universidade%20do%20Minho%2C%20Portugal.
35. EPrints.org, Institutional Self-Archiving Policy Registry, http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/policysignup/.
36. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., "Open Access and Libraries," in Mark Jacobs, ed., Electronic Resources Librarians: The Human Element of the Digital Information Age (Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 2006), forthcoming, http://www.digital-scholarship.com/cwb/OALibraries2.pdf.
37. Harnad, "Fast-Forward on the Green Road to Open Access: The Case against Mixing Up Green and Gold."
38. Bailey, Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals, xviii-xix.
39. D-Lib Magazine, http://www.dlib.org/.
40. Lund University Libraries, Directory of Open Access Journals, http://www.doaj.org/.
41. Bailey, "Open Access and Libraries."
42. BioMed Central, http://www.biomedcentral.com/home/.
43. Springer, "Springer Open Choice," http://www.springer.com/sgw/cda/frontpage/0,11855,1-40359-0-0-0,00.html.
45. Edward M. Jennings, "EJournal: An Account of the First Two Years," The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2, no. 1 (1991): 91-110, http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v2/n1/jennings.2n1.
46. Eyal Amiran and John Unsworth, "Postmodern Culture: Publishing in the Electronic Medium," The Public-Access Computer Systems Review 2, no. 1 (1991): 67-76, http://info.lib.uh.edu/pr/v2/n1/amiran.2n1.
47. Charles W. Bailey, Jr., "Electronic (Online) Publishing in Action . . . The Public-Access Computer Systems Review and Other Electronic Serials," ONLINE 15 (January 1991): 28-35; and Pat Ensor and Thomas Wilson, "Public-Access Computer Systems Review: Testing the Promise," The Journal of Electronic Publishing 3, no. 1 (1997), http://www.press.umich.edu/jep/03-01/pacs.html.
48. Public Knowledge, "Open Journal Systems (Overview)," http://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/.
49. Adrian K. Ho and Charles W. Bailey, Jr., "Open Access Webliography," Reference Services Review 33, no. 3 (2005): 346-364, http://www.digital-scholarship.com/cwb/oaw.htm.
Preprint: 2/7/06. This paper will appear in: Jacobs, Neil, ed. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects. Oxford: Chandos Publishing, 2006. http://www.chandospublishing.com/catalogue/record_detail.php?recordID=103.
Copyright © 2006 by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.