Infokelele

Open Access and Open Data for the Information and Knowledge Economy

Demystifying Open Access: Are we there yet?

Posted by infokelele on April 14, 2012

The Internet has facilitated many revolutionary changes. Without it, we would perhaps not be talking about Open Access (OA). At least not in the way that we currently do. In fact, there probably would be no Open Access.

But what is Open Access anyway?

Some see it as free online literature. This is partially right but not quite. Others understand it as self-published material posted online for free consumption but this is way off. Yet others view it as cheap philanthropic publishing. This only adds to the mystery. In fact, some have characterized Open Access work as amateurish portraying their publishers as scoundrels. Well, I guess it depends on motives.

Open Access continues to attract considerable global attention from scholars, knowledge workers and policy makers.  In my view, this intense attention is a pointer to the far-reaching implications Open Access has for the future of knowledge sharing, dissemination and use including in political emancipation and economic development. This is especially true in the current fast and furiously evolving globalization of the information and the knowledge economy. Yet the lack of understanding of what Open Access really is continues to confound. An explanation is in order to crack the code.

Simply put, Open Access is a mode of making peer-reviewed publications and data online so that anyone with Internet access can obtain them freely and also use them freely in accordance with these works’ licensing provisions. In addition, OA works undergo the usual rigorous editorial process similar to traditional publishing. Its quality should not be and cannot be in doubt!

Generally, authors can either publish in an Open Access journal or deposit a copy of their writing in an institutional Open Access repository. In some instances, only either one is used but on both fronts, the numbers are growing every year.  Authors typically also post copies of their works either on personal or employer departmental websites. An example of a list of Open Access journals can be found at http://www.doaj.org . Lists of Open Access repositories are available at both http://roar.eprints.org and www.opendoar.org . A global repositories map is also available at http://maps.repository66.org . This map shows worldwide dispersion of registered repositories over the last 20 years.

Relevant policies drive Open Access implementation and growth. Open Access repositories for instance, have to adhere to international interoperability standards in order to make them searchable in the open Web. Moreover, explicit institutional policies increasingly require their author employees to retain copyrights to their own works while granting journal publishers a license to publish. This is considered best practice and is implemented through a customizable author addendum. Journals have corresponding policies that enable this process. An example of journal policies can be found at http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo.php . Additionally, there is a growing trend by research funding agencies requiring Open Access compliance for publication of research that they fund.

A useful policy lesson emerging from pioneers in this area is that institutions are more likely to succeed in implementing Open Access if they make depositing of works mandatory and the depositing process as easy and painless as possible.

To find out more about Open Access and how it has evolved over time, check out these sites – http://www.openoasis.org , http://www.arl.org/sparc/ and www.soros.org/openaccess .

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One Response to “Demystifying Open Access: Are we there yet?”

  1. […] I suspect that we wont be hearing the last of what Open Access really is but check out infokelele’s earlier post on this subject in case you missed it at https://infokelele.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/demisystifying-open-access/ […]

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