What is Open Access (OA)?

In the early 2000’s and with the expansion of the World Wide Web, there was a boom in interest for creating the free flow of digital information throughout the world, reducing barriers to access, and creating accessible content free of major copyright and licensing restrictions. With that came several important declarations: The Budapest Initiative, Bethesda Statement, and the Berlin Declaration. When combined, the three overlap to define the principles of Open Access, as well as the movement’s long term goals. The common theme throughout, defined by the Bethesda and Berlin statements, says that Open Access should permit users to freely

  • “copy, use, distribute, transmit and display publicly...
  • to make and distribute derivative works in any digital medium for any responsible purpose…”
  • and requires “proper attribution of authorship”   

The Budapest Initiative defines Open Access as literature that is freely available “on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these 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." 

“Open Access removes price barriers as well as permission barriers.”

-Peter Suber

Peter Suber, the Director of Harvard’s Open Access Project and the Berkman-Klein Centre, is widely attributed as one of the foremost thought-leaders and advocates of the Open Access movement. He succinctly defines Open Access as “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.”  In this interview with The Bastion’s Sourya Reddy titled, “The Origin Story with Dr. Peter Subor”, he provides a short overview of Open Access principles and how the movement came to be. 

Jorge Cham’s video, “Open Access Explained!,” featuring Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen, provides a simple overview of Open Access concepts and arguments.