October 14, 2008 will go down in history as the first annual Open Access Day. Which might prompt a few questions: namely, what is open access, and why should we care?
Groups of scholars and librarians developed open access (OA) publishing as an alternative to the conventional model of academic publishing. In the traditional system, scholars submit their work to academic journals, who then assume copyright ownership, publish the work, and sell or lease the content to libraries and other entities–often for enormous sums of money. OA content, by contrast, is freely available over the World Wide Web, and costs no more to read than this blog.
OA publishing is still a marginal enterprise, but it has increased in volume and prestige in the last few years. Peer-reviewed OA journals published by the Public Library of Science have earned an international reputation; Harvard University adopted a policy encouraging their faculty to make their scholarship freely available; and the National Institutes of Health now require anyone accepting one of their grants to submit any resulting article to its freely accessible full-text database, PubMed Central (a policy that is currently under attack in Congress). Community colleges are getting in on the action by promoting OA textbooks.
Interested? Check out some videos celebrating open access, or
- read an overview of OA “for beginners”–either very brief or more thorough
- browse the Directory of Open Access Journals to find free scholarly content in your field
- subscribe to Peter Suber’s blog, Open Access News
- learn what’s behind acronyms such as SPARC and CCCOER
- read Stevan Harnad’s “Subversive Proposal“–a proto-OA manifesto from way back in 1994