« By "open access" to [the scientific] literature, we mean its free availability 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. »
Definition from the "Budapest Open Access Initiative" (BOAI, 2002).
Open Access draws its origin from a mobilization of the academic community (researchers, librarians...) in favor of open and free access to academic information. Born in the nineties, the movement is the result of several interlinked factors:
The witnessing of a genuine crisis in the publication of research material:
New technologies offer numerous options:
Open Access, a very young movement, was born in the early nineties
Open Access, a movement rapidly getting structured and internationalized...
...to become a worldwide groundswell
The movement in favor of open access has taken on considerable proportions during the course of recent years. It has been supported by official statements emanating from a large number of academic and scientific foundations and university and government representatives, by way of international declarations. Very important bodies involved in the financing of research have also played a leading role by defining policies that encourage subsidized researchers to make their articles available freely and openly.
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Publication in a journal on Open Access or "Gold Road", freely accessible to all on publication, without hindrance or cost.
This can concern journals previously published in a traditional, commercial mode and which will now be openly accessible; or it can concern new publications, directly created on OA:
Apart from their open access character, these OA journals have exactly the same publication characteristics as traditional journals, in terms of editorial committee quality, of peer reviewing and the possibility of obtaining an impact factor by ISI.
According to Ulrich’s, the professional international database of periodical titles, comprising more than 300,000 titles, of which over 65,000 are of a research nature:
Free access does not mean that setting up these journals in this new manner is without any expenditure; rather, that the costs will be absorbed by:
Creation of Open Access directories or "Green Road".
The principal is to permit the author of a research paper to file its full text (self-archiving) on a server freely accessible via the Internet. These servers, also called “directories”, “archives” or “repositories”, may be of an institutional or thematic character. As of October 2009, almost 1,500 open archives have been listed on the sites ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories) and OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories).
The size of the movement in favor of open access has compelled a considerable number of publishers to review their policy and to release a part of their rights. Currently, according to the site SHERPA-RoMEO (which lists the policy of large publishers in terms of self-archiving) around 70% of these large publishers (Annual Reviews, Cambridge University Press, Elsevier, Springer, Wiley...) have had to take the decision to institute a policy which makes it possible for authors to choose self-archiving and to provide open access on servers to articles published in their journals.
It does not call into question classical paper publishing.
The purpose is not to replace a mode of publishing which has proven its worth and which remains much appreciated by its various actors. Open Access intends to be a complementary means of spreading research information to the largest possible number of interested parties.
It is not a "discount" means of distribution for revolutionary researchers or those having a hard time with getting something published.
On the contrary, be it for publications in OA journals or for self-archiving, the promoters of OA insist on the importance of peer-reviewing and the research quality of online publications. The quality of publications in Open Access must be equivalent to that of classical publishing. It can furthermore be observed that the increased accessibility of articles on Open Access lends itself to them becoming reference texts more and more quickly and having greater influence than for publications which are paid for. This form of open access thus permits research to have a greater impact than before.
Open Access does not make plagiarism any easier and does not prevent the publications having economic value.
Open Access does not give anyone the right to do whatever they want with accessible publications. In fact, all authors retain their intellectual property rights, most particularly the requirement to be correctly recognized and cited as the author of a document. Open Access wants to facilitate the access to research publications in accordance with the principles of teaching and research. It also facilitates the detection of potential plagiarism, thanks in particular to the development of verification tools.
See also Les mythes de l'Open Access (Blog by Rector B. Rentier)