The Case for Open Access (OA)
Open Access stands for unrestricted access and unrestricted reuse. Here’s why that matters.
Most publishers own the rights to the articles in their journals. Anyone who wants to read the articles must pay to access them. Anyone who wants to use the articles in any way must obtain permission from the publisher and is often required to pay an additional fee.
Although many researchers can access the journals they need via their institution and think that their access is free, in reality it is not. The institution has often been involved in lengthy negotiations around the price of their site license, and re-use of this content is limited.
Paying for access to content makes sense in the world of print publishing, where providing content to each new reader requires the production of an additional copy, but online it makes much less sense to charge for content when it is possible to provide access to all readers anywhere in the world.
PLOS Takes a Different Approach
PLOS applies the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license to works we publish. This license was developed to facilitate open access – namely, free immediate access to, and unrestricted reuse of, original works of all types. Under this license, authors agree to make articles legally available for reuse, without permission or fees, for virtually any purpose. Anyone may copy, distribute, or reuse these articles, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. Additionally, the journal platform that PLOS uses to publish research articles is Open Source.
Benefits of OA Research
- Accelerated discovery. With open access, researchers can read and build on the findings of others without restriction.
- Public enrichment. Much scientific and medical research is paid for with public funds. Open access allows taxpayers to see the results of their investment.
- Improved education. Open access means that teachers and their students have access to the latest research findings throughout the world.
Additional OA Resources
There are many other organizations, such as SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Institute) and the Open Society Foundations, that work tirelessly for progress in OA. You can find many free resources here to help you learn more or to advocate for OA journals in your institution.