Open Access Defined

  • Open Access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.
  • Open Access is compatible with copyright, peer review, revenue (even profit), print, preservation, prestige, quality, career-advancement, indexing, and other features and supportive services associated with conventional scholarly literature.
  • Peter Suber,  "Open Access Overview,"  2004 (revised 2010)

"Open Access" (OA) describes a family of copyright licensing policies under which copyright owners make their works available publicly, without access being limited to subscribers or purchasers of the material, and typically in online databases. Disseminating information or publishing under Open Access principles means that access to the results of research is provided freely, immediately, and digitally, as is the right to use and re-use those results as needed. 

Open Access is compatible with the features and services of scholarly literature and communication, including copyright, peer review, revenue (even profit), print, preservation, prestige, quality, career-advancement, indexing, and more. Material published under Open Access principles is still covered by copyright law, but Open Access terms and conditions apply that specifically permit non-profit and scholarly uses of the work and that permit the copyright owner to include a limited number of other conditions, such as attribution of the work to the original author. 

Open Access does not mean an "open door" for publication. Open Access works describe the results of research that scholars give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. These works are often, but not exclusively, peer-reviewed.

For more information about Open Access and other related terms, please see the Office of Scholarly communication and Publishing glossary.