(Open Access Week) How Open is Open?

During open access week, we have had discussions with academic and professional support colleagues at the department’s we have visited, through events organised for academic colleagues to talk about their research, and through our posts on this blog and via Twitter. We have tried to discuss open access in a wider context, focusing less on the “policy stick” (what authors have to do because their funder, publisher or university requires them to do so), and more on the actual research being made available, how that is then shared and used, and how you (staff, students and everyone else) can search for and access it outside of your usual approaches.

We’d like to close our series of posts this week by briefly highlighting that “open access” can mean different things, and carry different expectations for different content creators and content users. Essentially, when we say something is open access, how open is open?

Whilst most publishers offer authors different options to make their published journal article, book chapter or monograph open access, not all Open Access is created equal.

All of these are issues to consider, by all of us – authors, publishers, funder’s, universities, users and librarians. There are differing views, competing concerns, and differences in practice and tradition between disciplines (real and perceived) that will always benefit from wider discussion.


One tool you can use to get a broad overview of some of the nuances and behind broad-brush labels and policy expectations is The “HowOpenIsIt?®” Open Access Spectrum (OAS) guide. This can help deepen the understanding of an author to the differing needs of researchers (beyond what they might have experience of themselves), and university to the technical and legal barriers for authors, publishers and funders to meet the expectations of competing interests.

“HowOpenIsIt?®” Open Access Spectrum (OAS)
The “HowOpenIsIt?®” Open Access Spectrum (OAS) guide, created by PLOS, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) based on core components of Open Access derived from the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), is available at https://www.plos.org/how-open-is-it

We’d love to hear your views on what you think is open access, what concerns you have as an author, editor reader, or how open access has benefited you or those you have worked with!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our series of posts this week, and thank you to those of you who we’ve met on our travels across the university or who have engaged with us on Twitter.

We have more department workshops and visits lined up over the coming months, so get ready to ask us questions! We’ll be ready to try and answer them (even if they are about Plan S!) Or just contact us any time via our web pages!

What is Open Access Week? Open Access week is a global event, aimed at promoting and informing the academic and research community about the benefits of open access. Open Access is the free & immediate online access to the results of scholarly research, and the granting of rights to share, use and re-use those results.

  • You can see other activity at Durham University here, or follow our blog to learn more.
  • You can find out more about Open Access at Durham here.
  • Remember: any full text research publication you access from Durham Research Online, an author at Durham has made the effort to ensure that research is available for free to anyone, with the assistance of colleagues from Durham University Library and Collections, and departmental administrative staff across the University. Thanks all!

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