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Open Access: What is Open Access (OA)?

This guide is designed to educate those interested in learning about the system of open access.


Rafabollas [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

As defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, Open Access (OA) to research means free “availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of [research] articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution and the only role for copyright in this domain should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”

Please see the Budapest +10 recommendations for best practices in creating, adopting and implementing OA policies and processes.

How Open Is It?

HowOpenIsIt? is a tool created by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), PLoS, and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA). Use it to evaluate the “openness” of publishing from full open access to closed access.


Types of OA Publishing

Open Access authors can publish in a few ways. The most common are known as “Gold” or “Green” Open Access.

Gold Open Access 

Gold OA: Making the final version of the manuscript freely available immediately upon publication by the publisher, typically by publishing in an OA journal and making the article available under an open license. An example of a gold OA journal is Studies in Digital Heritage published by Indiana University Office of Scholarly Publishing, found within IUScholarWorks Open Journals.

Another example of a gold OA journal is PLoS.

For information regarding OA journals around the globe, please visit the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Green Open Access

Green OA: Making a version of the manuscript freely available in a repository, also known as self-archiving. An example of green OA is a university research repository like IUScholarWorks.

Other examples:

OA repositories can be organized by subject, for example:

  • arXiv at Cornell University for physics, mathematics, astronomy, computer sciences and quantitative biology.
  • American Memory from the Library of Congress, focused on the arts and humanities.
  • PubMed Central from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), focused on health and medicine.

For information regarding OA repositories around the globe, please visit the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR).



OA Explained

“Open Access Explained!” Attributions: Animation by Jorge Cham Narration by Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen Transcription by Noel Dilworth Produced in partnership with the Right to Research Coalition, the Scholarly Publishing and Resources Coalition and the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. CC BY 3.0.

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Indiana University Northwest
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