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Open Access Guide: Open Access (OA)

What is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) is the free, immediate availability of research, learning materials, and other scholarly work in a digital environment. Open access exists because "research leads to breakthroughs, and communicating the results of research is what allows us to turn breakthroughs into better lives—to provide new treatments for disease, to implement solutions for challenges like global warming, and to build entire industries around what were once just ideas" (SPARC, n.d.). 

When you hear the terms Open Educational Resources (OER), Creative Commons, Open Education, and similar terms, these terms all fall under the umbrella of Open Access. 

You may decide that open access is the best route for resources used within your classroom or for publishing your own research. Open access:

  • Breaks down barriers in accessing scholarly and trustworthy information with immediate and unrestricted access for students and faculty
  • Allows faculty, students, researchers, journalists, policy makers, and the general public to access research without a subscription or paywall
  • Reaches additional audiences, which may lead to breakthroughs, funding, and more

The following video, An Introduction to Open Access Publishing by Taylor & Francis, explains Open Access:

Types of Open Access

Publishing models for Open Access journals and articles:

  • Diamond/Platinum – Journals or articles that are made fully-accessible by the publisher, where the publisher does not charge an APC (Article Processing Charge). These resources are typically funded by institutions, advertising, grants, philanthropy, etc.
  • Gold – Journals or articles that are made fully-accessible by the publisher. The articles may be under a Creative Commons license or similar. Authors may pay an Open Access Fee, also called an Article Processing Charge (APC).
  • Hybrid – Typically refers to a subscription journal that contains a mixture of open access articles and closed access articles, where the journal allows authors to pay to make individual articles Open Access. A library or other subscriber still needs to pay for a subscription to the journal for access.
  • Bronze – Journals and articles that are free to read online, but do not have an open license.
  • Green – An author may archive their own work, controlled by them, or their funder, or on a repository. Copies of these articles are often not final copies, and instead of a pre or post-print version of the article. These articles are often under a Creative Commons license or similar.

Gold and Green are the most common publishing models for OA. The following video, "Open Access: What's With All The Colors?" by UMN Libraries, explains additional differences between the two:

Helpful Links

eBooks on Open Access


The information presented in this guide is intended for information purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.