What is Open Access?
The term Open Access refers to scholarly work that is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions,” in the words of Peter Suber.
Open Access typically only applies to research by scholars because most other types of authors and creators make a living by charging users for access to their work. However, scholars may receive little or none of the fees academic publishers charge. Often when scholars choose to provide Open Access to their work, their bottom line remains stable, their audience expands, and the impact of their ideas increases.
How can Open Access support equity and inclusion?
The theme of Open Access Week 2020 is Open With Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion. Just to mention two aspects of Open Access, putting works online lowers some barriers and removing purchase and subscription costs lowers others.
Digitization to Reduce Barriers
When works that are not currently of mass interest only exist in printed format, they may go out-of-print. This can mean that the few existing copies are prohibitively expensive to purchase, or only available in a few libraries. Then researchers who cannot afford the cost of a rare book or travel to a distant city may not be able to refer to those works. Researchers who rely on screen readers or other accessibility technology may encounter additional barriers to using a printed format. Digitizing works and putting them online can help overcome these barriers.
Free or Affordable Textbooks
Students and faculty know how expensive textbooks are, and textbook prices continue to rise. Using Open Access textbooks is one way to help make education more affordable, and therefore more inclusive of students facing financial constraints.
Access Beyond Wealthy Institutions
Many researchers access scholarly works online via an institutional login. They may be unaware of the high rates their library pays academic publishers for group online subscriptions. Meanwhile, independent researchers or researchers whose institutions cannot pay for certain expensive subscriptions often cannot afford access to the sources they need for their research.
In Part 2: How do UofSC Law librarians support Open Access?