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Open access

A guide to open access at Manchester Metropolitan University.

A definition of open access

“Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (taken from Peter Suber's Open Access Overview).

Open access presents an alternative to traditional academic publishing. Typically, with traditional academic journal articles:

  • The author gives the traditional publisher the copyright to their articles
  • The publisher sells the articles for profit, meaning that people who want to read the articles have to pay

However, with open access:

  • The author or copyright-holder agrees to more permissive rules
      • This means the work can usually be read, shared, copied, saved and printed freely
      •  People who want to access the articles do not have to pay

In short, more people can access the material. The idea is that this benefits authors, as their material is more widely read and has more impact, and that this benefits readers as they have access to more material. As a result, society can build on existing research to develop things everyone can gain from more quickly and more efficiently.

The OA movement has primarily focused on academic journal articles thus far but it is by no means limited to them. All sorts of material, including books, pictures, videos, datasets and more, can be made open access. Non-academic material could be made open access too.

For more information on open access, read Peter Suber's Open Access Overview or watch this video entitled Open Access Explained! which, although it focuses on the sciences, is very useful in general terms.