Open Acces: a brief introduction

1. What is Open Access?
The Open Access movement was born in the 1990s encouraged by the spread of the World Wide Web, to promote free and unrestricted access to knowledge and information.
When we talk about Open Access in academia we refer to a barrier-free access to scientific literature: "free of charge for everyone with an internet connection, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions". (Peter Suber)

2. The paradox of scientific communication

The OA movement was born in a period characterized on one side by a strong development of technologies that facilitated dissemination and access to information and on the other side by a high increase in scientific journals' prices. 
 ARL, Statistics 2003-2004

As we know, the priority of researchers is to communicate with the scientific community in order to: receive feedback, share ideas,  be known and finally to advance their careers.
The most important form of communication is to publish your own work in scientific journals, which theoretically allows a wide dissemination and a higher citation impact.
Due to the mentioned price crisis and the simultaneous budget decrease, libraries are no longer able to face the costs of all the subscriptions necessary to support the research activity of its scientific community.
The result is that a researcher may not have access to his own articles published in scientific journals because his institutional library does not have sufficient funds to subscribe to them.

3. The solutions proposed by OA movement

There are two possible roads to OA:
    "green road" (self-archiving): the author provides free access to his own published articles archiving them in institutional or disciplinary repositories;
    "golden road": the author publishes his own articles in open access journals that guarantee free access to all their articles in the publisher's website.

Some things you should know about the two "roads":
  • they are not in conflict, but they are complementary;
  • self-archiving is not self-publishing, but if you archive a post-print (if possible), in fact you are providing free access to published content;
  • open access journals can be peer-reviewed; in many cases the peer-review is clearer thanks to the pre-publication history.