Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and Answers to Support the IFLA Position on Open Access

Questions and answers to support the drive on Open Access especially by IFLA were put together. These are some of the frequently asked questions that can help clarify issues surrounding the Open Access initiative.  The questions cover aspects such as what OA is all about; OA access roads, benefits and procedures.

Q1: What is Open Access?

A. Open Access (OA) is having access to free information that includes scientific research, raw data and metadata, source materials, and images and multimedia in digital format which are all made available under an open license; and accessible online through the digital repository of an institution dedicated to supporting information literacy.

Q2. What are the access roads to OA?

A: The two primary access roads to OA are OA journals (gold road) and OA repositories (green road). The main difference between gold and green is that gold conducts peer review while green does not.

The Golden road of OA journal publishing is where journals provide OA to their articles either by charging the author/institution for refereeing/publishing outgoing articles instead of charging the user/institution for accessing incoming articles, or by simply making their online edition free for all. It is easier for authors to retain copyright to their materials and to provide libre (free) OA which means that articles are provided with free online access with additional rights on re-using the materials. Some of the publishers are for profit, while some are non-profit. OA journals are also economically sustainable because prices associated with them are considerably lower than subscription costs to materials.

The Green road of OA self-archiving is where authors provide OA to their own published articles by making their own e-prints free for all. OA repositories are organized by discipline or institution. Although they do not perform peer review, they host articles that are peer-reviewed elsewhere. Repositories can include either pre-prints or post-prints or both. By default, repositories provide all their contents for open access. Authors still hold copyright of their work and in cases where authors transfer copyright to publishers, permission and decisions of OA are sought from the publisher.

Q3 :What are the benefits of Open Access?

A: The benefit of Open Access is that it makes knowledge, scholarly and others, available to anyone, removing price and permissions barriers.

OA contributes to personal and professional development and improvement in a user's work and knowledge. OA also helps in increasing the research component of an institution. For publishers and authors, OA increases visibility and impact of their articles. OA pulls and connects people from all over the world, interconnecting them to information that is shared through OA.

Q4: What are the advantages of Open Access for science and scholarship?

A: One advantage of Open Access is that scholarly information is readily available to people fast. They are openly available to anyone and enable research to move at a constant pace, providing quality research materials that any user can access through any information tool. Open Access paves the way for a smoother road for the acquisition of new information and knowledge.

Q5: Why should librarians be concerned with Open Access?

A: Increasing subscription prices for journals and databases are affecting access to research material due to budgetary constraints on library institutions, typically academic and research libraries.

Open Access is making it possible for libraries to connect their readers to high quality content and expand their resources at no cost. Materials are freely available and accessible to faculty and researchers.

Open access reduces the pressure of library budgets for purchasing subscriptions to databases and print materials. Moreover in relation to information, the librarians can manage and organize information in an open access repository or journal.

Librarians in their roles as information professionals need to be concerned with ensuring that access to scholarly information is ongoing and is stored in a medium that future scholars can easily retrieve from and OA provides that access.

Q6: Why should students support Open Access?

A: As research is an essential part of education, students support open access due to the rich scholarly journals that are available. Open access provides students the access to research materials that they would not otherwise be able to gain access to without a subscription fee.

Students benefit most from OA scholarly content, which contributes to success in their studies. The medium in which information is provided fits very nicely with students of this generation, who are more skilled with the way technology works through different types of media. Students are also very strong advocates for OA.

Q7: How will readers know what articles are available on Open Access?

A: Readers know what articles are available OA when an icon with the word Open is marked next to the articles. OA articles are available in full text or PDF format.

OA access is provided mostly through institutional repositories. An institution establishes its own repository of OA materials, to share their research literature to the world. Their main role is to capture and preserve the digital collections of scholarly works of an institution. The repository delivers quality content and research of the institution and increases the institution's value and importance in the community and abroad while also providing the means to scholarly information.

Q8: Who retains copyright of the open access articles?

A: Authors retain copyright of their work even when it gets transferred to publishers. In that case, permissions and decisions for OA are in the hands of the publishers. 

Q9: What is the difference between open access literature and digital, online and free-of-charge literature?

A: Open access literature is available to the public under conditions that permit [to varying degrees] different types of re-use. Users are often able to download, print, copy, link to the articles, distribute or for any other use without any barriers. Digital, online, and free-of-charge literature is available for free, but still requires permission for copying, re-publishing, and further communicating. The material is provided for users through another institution that may be paying for subscription on the users' behalf.

Q10: Is open access compatible with copyright?

A: Copyright co-exists with OA because it respects authors’ rights. Authors can make access to their materials open or restricted. It is the intent of open access to have authors and institutions who are willing to provide their materials openly, without restrictions.

Q11: Is open access compatible with peer review?

A: OA is compatible with peer review. Both traditional forms and newer forms that make use of the interactive medium that technology provides are used for peer reviewing OA articles.

Q12: Is open access compatible with high standards and high quality?

A: Open access literature has a similar publishing process like a commercial publication so it is also made available with high quality and high standards in content and accessibility. Standards that apply to traditional scholarly information publishing are also incorporated in the open access scholarly information publishing process.

Q13: I want to publish my paper in an Open Access journal, how can I find the relevant journal?

A: The relevant journal can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals. It can be searched by title or subject to pull up the appropriate journal and its requirements, in order to publish your research result as open access. There are journals that charge publication fees so you might want to select the ones that do not charge any publication fees

Atarino A. Helieisar & Jorge Ruiz Vaca

Last update: 4 August 2014

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