What is Open Access, anyway?

Monday, October 23, 2023

Open Access Week is acknowledged during the last full week of October around the world to increase awareness of the open access movement. The Open Access movement seeks to promote free and open online access to academic information, such as research articles and data.

Open Access (OA) materials hold Creative Commons copyright licenses, which means there are no financial, legal or technical impediments to accessing and using the information. Users can read, download, adapt, copy, and print material freely compared to the traditional subscription model, where readers have to pay a subscription fee to access research materials. Typically, this fee is paid through agreements between libraries and publishers.

As portals to accessing information, libraries are key partners in the open access movement, supporting work in this area in many different ways.

  • One of the most common types of OA resources are Open Educational Resources (OER). These are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether the user is an instructor or learner. The Library provides support in the creation of OER through our Staebler Insurance OER Fellows Grant as well as a place to store OER materials online in our Online Learning Object Repository.
  • Open Access journals are another common OA resource, though they have different levels of access, use and reuse. They undergo the same submission and peer review process but can help increase readership and transparency of research. To support free access, OA journals sometimes charge authors Article Processing Charges. These fees can often be covered by grant funding, or by agreements between libraries and publishers that may cover all or some of the fees. Learn more about the UWaterloo Library’s OA publisher agreements. Another way the Library supports OA journals, is by providing a host platform, technical infrastructure and the expertise to support the creation of new OA journals. Learn more about the OA journals the Library currently supports.

With the reduction in barriers to information, Open Access provides many benefits to the research and learning communities.

  • With the rising cost of textbooks, OER can provide more equitable access to learning materials for anyone who wishes to learn. According to eCampus Ontario, the total savings of using Open Access materials in Ontario since 2019 is over $18 million. In addition to cost savings, OER also allows students to participate in the creation of learning materials to provide a more engaged learning experience that is timely and relevant to them and their specific learning outcomes.
  • With easy online access, OA journals help to increase impact of research findings by reaching a larger, more diverse audience, decrease potential duplication of work, and speed up further innovation.

If you’re interested in learning more about Open Access at Waterloo, reach out to the Open Scholarship Committee.

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