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STEM - Free & Open Access Resources

What's Open Access?

One definition of Open Access (OA)

Open access is a broad international movement that seeks to grant free and open online access to academic information, such as publications and data. A publication is defined 'open access' when there are no financial, legal or technical barriers to accessing it - that is to say when anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search for and search within the information, or use it in education or in any other way within the legal agreements. 

Open access is a publishing model for scholarly communication that makes research available to readers at no cost, as opposed to the traditional subscription model in which readers have access to scholarly information through their academic institution's library.


  • There several types of OA publishing
    • Gold - when the article, book, etc. is OA on the publisher's website, which often involves an article or book processing charge (APC/BPC) to eliminate the paywall for that work. The charge can be covered by the author(s), institution, or funding agency. 
    • Green - when someone, including the author, deposits the article in an open access repository like PubMed Central or a university's institutional repository.
      • The deposited article is usually the final accepted manuscript, the final, peer-reviewed and accepted version of the article that the author sends to the publisher with their revisions. The version that the publisher puts on their website, with the typesetting, formatting, and copyediting, should not be deposited unless the publisher grants permission.
  • Open access materials are freely available, but freely available materials aren't necessarily open access, assuming a strict interpretation of OA that includes Creative Commons licensing that allows for the broadest sharing and reuse of material. For example, some publishers may offer a free issue every year as a way to promote their journals. For Elsevier, it's usually the first issue of the calendar year. But those articles are still under copyright by the publisher.