Open Access (OA) means free of charge and immediate web access to the data and results of publicly funded scientific research:
- It is a high potential dissemination and impact model, alternative or supplementary to the traditional publishing market model;
- It’s related to scientific and educational literature made voluntarily available by Authors to the community, in an immediate and free way, thanks to the abolition of some of the restrictions provided by publishing licences with respect to the rights of economic exploitation;
- It applies to the data of publicly funded research (with the exclusion of sensitive or patented data);
- the fundamental principle is that “the results of publicly funded research must be publicly available”.
Open Access publications are quality scientific products, since they are validated after a careful peer-review process: this guarantees greater visibility and more effective dissemination of research works; the growth of prestige and impact; more recognisability and reputation of researchers, also beyond their scientific community of reference.
Contrary to common belief, those who publish in Open Access, can more easily defend themselves from plagiarism: if the web simplifies access to content, at the same time it allows them to more easily identify any illegal use of their publications. It is important that the Authors agree, through the appropriate tools, upon a publishing contract protecting them and guaranteeing the maintenance of their rights.
Open access entails two publishing strategies:
The green road: self-archiving of one’s own scientific articles in open disciplinary or institutional archives, in accordance to the publishers’ copyright policies. This is an immediate and costless way.
The gold road: publication in open access, peer reviewed periodicals, freely available and free of charge. This way might involve costs for the Authors (or for their institution), because various journals require the payment of publication fees.
Recently, there is also talk of “hybrid road” (red road): it is the options offered by many commercial publishers who require a payment for the open access publication of individual articles (APC, Article Processing Charge) in a journalstill sold by subscription (Author-pays solution).
Open access peer-reviewed journals contain validated articles, are indexed in the main citation databases and often have high impact factor indices. Some publishers provide for an embargo period: that is, the article may be freely accessible after a certain time of its publication (generally six or twelve months); It is always good to inquire in advance with the publisher on the policies adopted in this regard. To meet the costs, many publishers request a contribution by Authors, who thus finance the publication of their research with their own funds, guaranteeing its free dissemination and remaining the owner of the incumbent rights. Furthermore, Authors must pay close attention to the so-called predatory publishers, who offer, for a fee, publication in open access journals, without guaranteeing quality editorial services or rigorous peer review.
Open archives (repositories) may be:
Institutional: if they collect the intellectual production in digital format of a University of research agency or of a set of scientific institutions;
Disciplinary: if they are dedicated to a specific subject.
Through self-archiving, Authors deposit their scientific works in compliance with copyright regulations: in this way, publication in prestigious and high-impact journals is not excluded, but the ways of accessing the text are broadened. The contents of the articles can be queried, thanks to the associated metadata, and freely consulted online through the main search engines.
With respect to the articles, it is possible to deposit in an open archive one or more versions among:
• Preprint: draft (manuscript) of the Author before submission to the publisher (pre-refereeing draft)
• Postprint: final version of the article already accepted following the peer review ("refereed") but still with the layout of the Author (final draft post-refereeing)
• Publisher's version: final version of the article paginated with the publisher's layout.
Open archives ensure long-term preservation and contain material that does not violate contracts signed with publishers. To find out about the publishers' policies regarding self-archiving and the conditions in which it is possible (version to be archived, timing of the deposit, particular restrictions) you can consult the Sherpa Romeo database.
In the last years the concept of Open Access has expanded and today we talk about Open Science, to indicate free access to the different phases and different tools used in research: data (Open Data); the results available in monographs, scientific articles and other documents (Open Access); the teaching material (Open Educational Resources); research methodologies (Open Methodology); software (Open Source); peer reviewing, useful for verifying the quality of scientific works (Open Peer review). Open science also includes the dissemination of research among citizens, with all the available communication tools.