Open Access

Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.

Why Open Access?

We engage and invest in research in order to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, encourage innovation, enrich education, and stimulate the economy – to improve the public good.  Communication of the results of research is an essential component of the research process; research can only advance by sharing the results, and the value of an investment in research is only maximized through wide use of its results.

Yet, too often, because of cost barriers or use restrictions, research results are not available to the full community of potential users.  The Internet gives us the opportunity to bring this crucial information to a worldwide audience at virtually no marginal cost, and allows us to use it in new, innovative ways. This has resulted in a call for new framework to allow research results to be more easily accessed and used— the call for Open Access.

Click here to learn who benefits from Open Access, including researchers, educational institutions, students, businesses, the public, and more.

How Does Open Access Work?

SPARC considers the terms outlined by the Creative Common's Attribution-Only license (CC-BY) to be the standard terms for Open Access.

There are four primary mechanisms that can be used to enable Open Access: 

  • Open Access Publishing:  Authors can choose to publish their research articles in a growing number of journals that meet the full definition of Open Access.  Articles are free to all interested readers, and the publishers place no financial or copyright barriers between the readers and the article.  Open Access publishing is the fastest rowing segment of the scholarly publishing market, and journal options are now available for nearly every area of research. A comprehensive list of Open Access journals is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  • Digital Repositories:  Authors can choose to deposit their research articles in digital archives (often called Digital Repositories or Institutional Repositories) which conform to the standards of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI), and enable readers to freely access and fully reuse the article text.  This allows any author to make their work available under Open Access conditions regardless of the journal out the article is published in.  There are more than 2,000 open Digital Repositories available for authors to use around the world, and a comprehensive listing of is available through the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).
  • Effectively Managed Author Rights:  As the authors of a research paper, you have ability to ensure that your article can be accessed and used by the widest possible audience.  Tools such as Addenda to traditional Copyright Transfer Forms are readily available, proven resources that can help you understand open licenses, and to publish your articles under full Open Access conditions. Visit the SPARC Author Rights page to learn more
  • Local, National and International Open Access Policies:  Institutions that support research, from public and private research funders to higher education institutions, can implement effective policies that that support making Open Access to scholarly research articles the default mode for their researchers. Learn more about these policies on the SPARC Advocacy page.

Why Should You Care About Open Access?

Over the past decade, Open Access has become central to advancing the interests of researchers, scholars, students, businesses, and the public  - as well as librarians.  The digital environment poses new challenges and provides new opportunities in the sharing, review, and publication of research results. Ensuring broad, unfettered access to the knowledge contained in primary research articles and the rights to use these articles fully will play a key role in seeing that the scholarly communication system evolves in a way that supports the needs of scholars and the academic enterprise as a whole.

Increasingly, institutions that support research – from public and private research funders to higher education institutions – are implementing policies that require researchers to make articles that report on research generated from their funding openly accessible to and fully useable by the public. 

Learn more about these policies in the SPARC Advocacy section, which explores the motivations behind these policies, the basic components that emerging policies contain, as well as the basic components of current policies that effectively promote Open Access. 

Learn More About Open Access

SPARC provides a full suite of resources, from regular newsletters to videos to white papers and guides to help you lean more about Open Access.  Get started here: 

SPARC endorses the full Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) definition of Open Access. Visit the BOAI website to learn more about the history and evolution of Open Access.

Get Involved in Open Access

Whether you are a librarian, faculty member, researcher, student or just an interested member of the public, there are lots of ways you can get involved in helping to promote Open Access. Take action as in individual, or leverage the power of collective action by joining an action coalition.

Click here to learn how you can get involved in raising awareness and advocating for Open Access.


SPARC Resources

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Why Access Matters