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Scholarly Communication: Open Access

This guide will outline what scholarly communication is and its relation to Open Access

Open Access

What is Scholarly Communication?

Broadly speaking, Scholarly Communication is the life cycle of scholarship. It is the process through which research is discovered, accessed, created, reviewed, disseminated, acquired, and preserved. The process involves numerous stakeholders, including authors, publishers, libraries, institutions, and funding agencies.

Open Access, with its promotion of broad dissemination and widespread discovery, may be one component of the Scholarly Communication cycle. However, Scholarly Communication extends beyond the Open Access movement and deals with everything from author rights to bibliometrics to publishing practices.

What is Open Access?

Open Access (OA) is the free, online availability of scholarly, peer-reviewed research, for which the authors and peer-reviewers receive no financial compensation.

Scholarly publishing can be prohibitively expensive. Between 1986 and 2003, journal prices increased by 215%, over three times the rate of inflation during that same period (Panitch & Michalak, 2005). This essentially puts research out of reach for the majority of people worldwide. In many ways, Open Access (OA) is a response to both the rising costs of journals and the advent of technology which makes virtually instantaneous, global distribution possible.

Colors of Open Access: Diamond, Gold, Green, Bronze, Black

In traditional publishing, readers pay to access articles. In Gold Open Access, the costs of publishing are shifted from the user to the producers. Most Gold Open Access journals charge authors fees (APCs) to have work made freely available to users worldwide. (see the Author Resources page for details on publishers that offer discounts on APCs). Some journals use a hybrid model (some articles are OA while others are not.) Diamond Open Access refers to journals which do not impose APCs, but are supported by collectives or partnerships or use a freemium model (fees are charged for value-added services). Well-known examples include PLOS One and BioMed Central

Green Open Access refers to self-archiving. where authors place copies in institutional or subject repositories so their research is still accessible to everyone. This is often referred to as self-archiving. UNBC has an institutional repository ( Examples of subject repositories are in Physics and PubMed Central in Biomedical and Life Sciences. See the Open Access Resources page for more subject repositories.

Bronze Open Access refers to journals where the OA licensing is not clear.  Black Open Access refers to works published on pirate sites like SciHub.

Author Benefits of Open Access

There are many benefits of Open Access. Authors in particular benefit from:

  • Greater impact of their work from an increase in citations
  • Breaking down disciplinary boundaries leading to more interdisciplinary convergence
  • Greater potential for collaboration at different levels (local, provincial, national, or international)
  • Greater control over their intellectual property through copyright negotiations with publishers
  • Greater control over how they can use the products of their research
  • Ability to track their research record through OA repositories

(List adapted from Mount Allison Libraries Open Access Guide)

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