Open access (OA) is a publishing model that provides an alternative to traditional, subscription-based scholarly publishing. OA does not change how information is created; rather, it changes how it is accessed and shared, by making information freely available online, to everyone, from anywhere.
What is Open Access?
For a publication, resource, or initiative to be considered open access, it must be free of
- price barriers such as paywalls, subscription costs to end users, or other charges or fees that require paid access to the materials; and
- overly restrictive copyright or licenses that severely limit sharing or (re)distribution of the materials.
Peter Suber's Open Access Overview is an excellent introduction to this topic. For details on key issues for open access, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) provides a great overview.
Open Access at MRU
The University Library actively supports open access publishing and related initiatives, including:
Open access fund
The Library currently offers an open access fund to support scholarly publishing by MRU authors. This new initiative aims to support our authors in the open dissemination of their research by reimbursing eligible open access fees related to publishing their research.
Open access repository
The MRU Library maintains an open access institutional repository, launched in 2014. Open access repositories typically consist of disciplines' or institutions' archived research materials and distributes that material for free via the Internet. An authoritative list of other open access repositories is available via the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).
Open access journal system
The Library maintains an open access journal system and currently hosts several journals maintained by students and faculty of our university using the popular Open Journals Systems platform. Members of the MRU community who are interested in establishing an OA journal can contact Richard Hayman, Digital Initiatives Librarian, at email@example.com.
Open access collections
The Library includes a large and varied selection of scholarly open access content in our collections. We regularly work with our consortial partners (e.g., CRKN, COPPUL) and the greater library community to seek opportunities to support OA, and we actively participate in and financially support open access collections and publishing initiatives. Current projects that we support include the Érudit Partnership, the Open Library of Humanities, Open Book Publishers, and PKP - Public Knowledge Project.
Library position statement on open access: In 2014 the Library Faculty Council affirmed the Library's committment to open acccess with this position statement.
Open Access Advocates
Professor, School of Midwifery and Nursing
"I study community health concerns with people experiencing those concerns first hand, alongside community agencies, and for decision makers. Sharing research results widely, and in as many ways as possible is essential to knowledge making and action for all these different stakeholders. The right knowledge and recommendations in the right hands, at the right time can close the gap between research and action!
Open Access publications are one vehicle to communicate research results widely in order to influence health and community practice. When community-based organizations with leisure, recreation, parks, or other urban planning agencies are seeking information for decision making about services and supports for older adults and all people, knowledge and recommendations needs to be readily available. Our study on "seniors in the suburbs", and older adults' experiences of belonging in suburban communities is just one example of the kind of study that can contribute to community practice - if easily accessed.”
Open access funded research
Associate Professor, School of Midwifery and Nursing
"I have used MRU Library’s Open Access Fund several times in order to increase access to my research articles for readers. By having my articles in open access, interested readers can locate the articles in databases such as CINAHL and Google Scholar without restrictions such as institutional subscriptions to the publishers or journals sources. As well the publishing process seems to be faster with articles “in print” earlier and thus available. Readers can locate the articles after doing a brief search of the topic or keywords and read the entire article the first time they locate your article instead of just the abstract. I believe using open access makes your work more visible and accessible to readers and hopefully reduces barriers to disseminating knowledge when articles become available to others. As well many journals have high open access fees which can be a deterrent to publishing. MRU’s Open Access Fund provided the opportunity for me to have several articles published instead of using my own professional development funds or personal savings."
Open access funded research
Trevor A. Day
Associate Professor, Faculty of Science and Technology
"The products of research are publicly-funded, and are of interest to the public, as the ultimate stake-holder in the knowledge generation endeavor. The work of scholars should be available to the public, with little to no barriers.
Open access is an emerging trend in academic publishing, and allows published work to be freely and immediately available to the public. There is also a growing number of reputable, open access publishers and journals, who maintain the importance of rigorous peer-review, the hallmark of good scholarship.In this model, the costs of publishing are downloaded to the authors, and particularly in the context of small universities, it is often prohibitive for authors to choose open access journals to publish their work in.Thus, in order for this trend to grow, it is critical for academic institutions and their libraries to fund publication in open access journals, to offset these costs to researchers.
We recently published a manuscript from a study on brain blood flow regulation during ascent to high altitude in the Nepal Himalaya in the open access journal Frontiers in Physiology. Frontiers in Physiology is a reputable, high-impact, peer-reviewed, open access online journal, and we were fortunate enough to have our manuscript accepted in 2018 (Leacy et al., 2018).The publication charges were approximately $4000 CAD, but with the offset of the MRU Library Open Access Fund ($3000/year), it was more feasible to get out work out for easy access to the general public. I am grateful to the MRU Library for maintaining this necessary fund, and I look forward to accessing it again soon to make the open access choice for future work from my research program."
Open access funded research
Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Community and Education
"I have benefited from the library open access resources to publish manuscripts on several occasions. I found the application for funding extremely easy with a quick on-line form. The fund was critical to publishing in high-quality, open access journals, as grants do not often cover all associated fees.
I value open access, as I find when I publish in this format, the articles get cited and read more frequently, as there are fewer barriers. I find this particularly relevant for my publications that are of interest to health professionals, who do not have access to institutional libraries, and thus must pay out-of-pocket if an article is not available open-access.
Furthermore, when I publish research that includes resources others may wish to use, I find the open access format to be more streamlined. For example, a questionnaire I developed was published open access and this allows anyone to download and use the resource without having to contact me to obtain a copy. As this resource is easily and freely available, I find researchers are more likely to use my versions as opposed to a similar pay for access option. This raises the profile of my research and provides significant contributions to the field. In my area of performance nutrition, there are often several conflicting studies on a similar topic. In this case, there is a high value placed on meta-analyses. Publishing anonymized data open access facilitates the meta-analysis process, thus the overall quality of information that can be provided to the end-users. Finally, although not required by all grants, I strongly support the philosophy of publishing research open access, as the majority of the funds to support these projects are provided from public money."
Open access funded research
Benefits and challenges
There are a variety of benefits and challenges to the open access publishing model.
- Increased access and audience: Open access publications are freely available, giving anyone, anywhere, the ability to find, read, and share your research. Unlike traditional, subscription publications, OA resources do not charge expensive fees (paywalls) or require users to pay before they can view the content.
- Citation advantage: With more people reading your work, better access leads to increased citation rates for authors. Known as the open access citation advantage, several studies have demonstrated the value of OA. SPARC Europe maintained a list of studies that examined the OA citation advantage through 2016, but ceased that project now that this benefit is well-known.
- Research belongs to the public: In Canada, most researchers and their universities receive public funding through grants, operating budgets, salaries, and more. The research funded by public tax dollars should be available to the public, as quickly as possible.
- Perceptions about rigour and quality: Misperceptions around the quality of open access publications represent a major challenge, and many continue to question whether articles published in an open access journal are of lower quality than those published in a traditional journal. The truth is that legitimate OA journals use the same quality control processes used by traditional journals, including including rigorous peer-review, editorial oversight, systems for retraction, and expectations of professional and ethical behaviour by researchers and publishers.
- Predatory publishing: This model relies on fraudulent and deceptive practices to exploit those authors seeking to publish via open access. They are profit-driven, charging authors significant fees to publish their research without providing the rigourous peer-review and editorial oversight mentioned above. Predatory publishers have recognizable characteristics, but scholars need to inform themselves and be vigilant when considering where to publish.
In most cases, authors who publish via an open access model retain more rights over their works than when publishing under a traditional model. Open access is about distribution and making information available; it does not significantly change the production of research and does not seek to change author rights. Authors who publish via open access agree to right of use, allowing unrestricted distribution (reading, downloading, copying, sharing, storing, and printing) of the full-text work, so long as the original author is given credit. Authors may choose to license their works under open content licensing, such as Creative Commons.
To search for permissions given by publishers as part of a journal publisher's copyright transfer agreement see the SHERPA/RoMEo tool.
Open access does not change intellectual property rights. Intellectual property includes patents, copyright, trade-marks, and industrial design. These rights protect intangible subjects that are produced as a result of human creativity. Intellectual property rights mean that other people can be stopped from using the "property" and that the rights can be transferred. For information about intellectual property in Canada see the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Unlike norms in traditional publishing, authors typically remain as copyright holders but allow for the general public to freely use and redistribute their work, giving credit to the author. Most journals that use an open access model ensure that works are published under the current copyright system or using a Creative Commons license. Authors can agree to have their work publicly accessed or publicly accessed and modified. The Canadian Copyright Act is available online.
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