What is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) is all about sharing research freely and openly.

The fundamental principle underlying OA is that research funded by the public should be freely available to the public.  For the typical researcher this means that a copy of a research paper should be placed online as soon as possible after publication or completion with no restrictions on who can access, view or download it. In this way OA bypasses current obstacles to access such as the prohibitive cost of journal subscriptions, coupled with restrictive licences, that exclude most people from viewing research.

Open Access as a movement has been around for at least a decade.   Support has grown significantly in the UK over the last few years for two reasons:

  1. Government-driven policy on widening access to research - a response to the Finch Report
  2. OA as a principle has been taken up by many of the major research funders, including the Research Councils (RCUK) and The Wellcome Trust. All Research Councils now require that research funded by them is put on OA by some method.
  3. HEFCE has introduced an OA Policy for the post-2014 REF. The main points of the policy are:
  • it will be compulsory to make all research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 Open Access in an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance.  This applies to journal articles and conference proceedings, but other formats and an earlier start date are encouraged
  • outputs should be in a readable format so that they can be searched and re-used
  • outputs should be properly attributed 

There are two main routes to Open Access: Green and Gold.  Please see How Do I...  for further information.

Listen to Lancaster Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith's podcast on the strategic implications of Open Access for Lancaster University, and the broader impact on the higher education sector.