Open access (‘OA’) to academic research is growing dramatically according to Heather Morrison in her blog post Dramatic Growth of Open Access: March 31, 2009. Morrison, an advocate of OA, has monitored the growth of Open Access in all its forms since 2005. This blog post is also a useful summary of the main open access resources available.
Peter Suber, another OA advocate, defines OA thus:
Open access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Open access works can be read, cited, included in your course packs or linked to from your own website. The advantage is a wider audience for research and more potential for citations or acknowledgment.
Suber has just posted A field guide to misunderstandings about open access in his latest Open Access Newsletter, a detailed definition of OA.
A third OA advocate, Stevan Harnad, would probably add ‘immediately on publication’ to Suber’s definition—delayed open access (for example, three months after publication) is not good enough. His blog is Open Access Archivangelism and he doesn’t pull any punches!
Ideally, there ought to be free access to all publicly funded research and, indeed, all eight seven UK Research Councils now specify that research projects they fund should be available in an open access version (see, for example, the press release Research Councils UK publishes update of position statement on access to research outputs, 28 June 2006).
There are two ways of providing open access to your research: via an open access digital repository (the so-called ‘green’ route) or via an open access journal (typically an online ‘ejournal’)(the ‘gold’ route)—or you could even do both. As long as the research is discoverable via web search engines it does not really matter which method is chosen. However, most academic institutions now have their own digital repositories, sometimes referred to as ‘archives’ (we have DSpace@Cambridge), so uploading your research paper to your institution’s repository (or ‘self-archiving’) would seem to be the simplest route to open access. Most physicists would know of arXiv.org, perhaps the first such repository, and medics would be familiar with PubMed Central. Like most long-standing repositories, these are not linked to a specific institution but rather to a particular subject, and therefore are called a subject or central repositories.
Most research, open access or not, should be findable via Google or Google Scholar and University subscribed sources such as Scopus and Web of Science (for the latter two a Raven password is needed off campus). A specific ‘open archive’ search engine, OAIster, is freely available and searches over 1,000 repositories (or archives) although not all the research indexed is open access. Elsevier’s Scirus is another search engine. A list of institutional respositories (over 1,300) is available at the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) or the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) and peer reviewed open access journals can be found at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or OpenJ-Gate. The DOAJ has just passed the 4,000 journal mark.