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Open Access & Scholarly Communication: Home

Resources on open access and scholarly communication.

What Is Open Access?

There are a number of definitions of open access (OA), with some being more restrictive than others. According to SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), open access is "the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment." This definition limits open access content to scholarly output. Setting aside that issue, the primary characteristics of open access content are that it is:

  • online
  • available at no cost
  • free of most (if not all) copyright and/or licensing restrictions

These articles provide more detailed descriptions of open access:

  • Open Access Overview - written by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and the Harvard Open Access Project; provides a primer for core concepts in OA
  • JISC Open Access Briefing Paper - written by Alma Swan, a scholarly communication consultant and director of Key Perspectives Ltd; discusses what open access is and is not, digital repositories and journals as sources of open access materials, and the advantages of publishing open access

Open Access Logo

(Image from International Open Access Week, used under a Creative Commons 4.0 Attribution license.)

Attribution & License

Unless otherwise indicated, all pages of this guide are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License


What Is Scholarly Communication?

According to a white paper published in 2003 by the Association of College & Research Libraries, scholarly communication is "the system through which research and other scholarly writings are created, evaluated for quality, disseminated to the scholarly community, and preserved for future use. The system includes both formal means of communication, such as publication in peer-reviewed journals, and informal channels, such as electronic listservs." One common model for the scholarly communication lifecycle looks like this:

Scholarly Communication Lifecycle

(Image from ACRL's Scholarly Communication Toolkit, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)