"What is Open Access? A complex definition…."

(Rick Anderson, Diversity in the Open Access Movement…)

Open Access is one aspect of the broader concept of Open Science, a
multidimensional expression that promotes new ways of approaching research and scientific communication.

Open Access faces the weaknesses inherent in the current publication system and tries to resolve them proposing a diametrically opposed logic to the publishing market. It is based on the principle of an open access to knowledge, with the aim of advancing research and education by making knowledge more accessible to the public.

Traditional academic publishing has always been based on the relationship between publishers and authors, who have been constantly required to transfer all or most of their rights to the publishing house to give visibility to their production. Indeed, most of the standard contracts ask to renounce copyright control, on the one hand hindering the author in the unlimited use of his work, on the other imposing access to the scientific results of other researchers that belong to institutions not able to support the high costs of publishing subscriptions.

The scientific community, today, has the possibility of subverting this practice making use of new ways of dissemination.

The origins

The OA principles have been modelled on three important statements, commonly known under the abbreviation 3B (BBB):

Why Open Access?

  • because knowledge is a public good;
  • because it grants wider dissemination to the article;
  • because it grants an easier access to data and search results;
  • because it favors sharing and transparency;
  • because it favors the sharing of the results of publicly funded research;
  • because it changes the economic model by reducing the costs of subscriptions that weigh on the funds of the institutions;
  • because it favors economic and social growth;
  • because it favors the exploitation of alternative metrics in the research assessment exercises;
  • because it favors a more transparent and effective peer-review;
  • because it favors the use of techniques as text-mining and data-mining;
  • ...
  • because an article ... the more it is visible ... the more it is read ... the more it is cited.

It is important to know that Open Access

  • is not in contrast with peer-review because an article deposited through Green Open Access is still available via the traditional publication channels in commercial journals;
  • applies to that line of scientific literature in which compensations are not provided to the authors besides the recognition of the international community;
  • applies to public funded research data with the exception of sensitive data and patents;
  • does not prejudice upon the copyright but invites authors to maintain their rights over their intellectual production.
  • has been identified as the preferred channel for the free dissemination of research results financed by public funding.
  • is not in contrast with current research evaluation procedures. If these include publication in journals equipped with Impact Factor or other bibliometric indicators, the authors can follow the same criteria, depositing the final draft of the article in an archive and making it "Open" according to the policies of its publisher.
  • Gratis e Libre are two different concepts – we talk about Free Open Access when the article is made available for reading but not for further distribution or reusing. We talk about Libre Open Access when the article can be read, distributed and reused. Very often the Libre Open Access articles are published under Creative Commons licenses.

Some myths to dispel

“It's time to unlock and put to rest the myths surrounding Open Access research”

(Peter Suber, Open access: six myths to put to rest)

  • The practice of Open Access is often associated only with the Gold road. The concept is wrong for two reasons:
    1. although the “Gold road” represents the best known business model, it is necessary to know that not all Open Access journals ask for the payment of an APC - Article Processing Charge. Moreover, if the author chooses to publish on Open Access journals requiring an APC, the costs may be incurred by institutions or funding bodies (e.g. the European Commission foresees the APC as expenditure items of the funded projects).
    2. the Green road allows the deposit of an open access version of a scientific work in an institutional repository, according to policies that vary depending on the publisher (e.g. pre-print vs post-print version). Authors subscribing Green Open Access do not bear any cost;
  • The publication in a traditional journal does not preclude Open Access for the following reasons:
    1. many publishers allow some forms of Open Access, Green or Gold, by filing at least one of the versions of the article in an institutional or disciplinary archive;
    2. even though consent is not provided by the policy of the publisher, it would be always possible to make a subsequent request to "return" some rights;
    3. the authors can exercise their right of deposit a priori, reserving some rights (e.g. the reuse for educational purposes or the deposit in the institutional archive) through an Addendum to the publishing contract.
  • Open access journals are not necessarily synonymous of poor scientific quality (e.g. PLOS One). This prejudice is linked to the Gold road and to the "paid publication" mechanism. However, the quality of a journal does not depend on the economic model used or on the access policies; it relies on the actors taking part in its publication: authors, reviewers, editors.
  • The principles of Open Access do not limit the academic freedom of an author since the author may still choose between the Green road and the practice of filing without restrictions.