Open Access is about ensuring that anyone anywhere (with a connection to the internet) has free, unimpeded access to the published outputs of publicly funded research. At Durham University, we pay around £3 million each year to provide access to our staff and students to journals and databases. Much of this content is not available to those not at a University – whether that is health workers, teachers, commercial companies or charities working in areas of social welfare.
Even at Durham, staff and students can not access everything they want to. In 2018/19, just under 5,000 requests were made through our Document Delivery Service for items not covered by our current subscriptions. Students and staff at other universities, without the same level resources than Durham has, will face difficulties accessing all of the published research which is out there – they may be faced with paywalls which regularly require the payment of a fee.
“Every year, JSTOR said, it turns away almost 150 million individual attempts to gain access to articles.”
‘JSTOR Tests Free, Read-Only Access to Some Articles’, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 13 2012
Rising to this challenge, policies from research funders, national governments and universities, coupled with support and action from academics across all disciplines, is making more and more research available for free. It still can be tricky however, when hitting that dreaded paywall, to see if there is an open access version of the research available to you.. so lets look at some of the options available to you, whoever you might be.