According to Peter Suber, a long-time proponent of open access: "Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder."
Suber has also made his book Open Access (M.I.T. Press, 2012), available online for free.
In addition, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, provides this definition: "By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."
When talking about open access, there is certain basic terminology that is used to describe the types of access that an article or publisher provides for. The three main types of open access materials are:
Green Open Access - This type of open access is also known as "self-archiving." Green open access designates materials that have been self-deposited by the author, or on the author's behalf, in an institutional repository (such as UC's eScholarship), or in a similar disciplinary repository.
Gold Open Access - Gold open access refers to articles that are published in fully accessible, open access journals. There are typically no barriers to Gold open access materials, and they are made available with no additional costs incurred by the viewer or author.
Hybrid Open Access - Hybrid open access models refer to models where the publisher of a journal provides open access to an article for a fee. These fees are usually paid for by the author(s), the author(s) institution(s), libraries, or other means. In many cases, Hybrid open access produce charges of "double-dipping," in that publishers see these article open access charges as an additional source of revenue on top of the fees already paid for a subscription to a journal.
The world of scholarly publishing is increasingly being dominated by companies whose yearly profit margins exceed that of Apple and Google. Taken as a whole, the companies that comprise the academic publishing market boast annual revenues that reach into the tens of billions of dollars. These profits are largely generated by licensing agreements that academic institutions sign on to in order for them to provide access to journals that these companies own. Annual costs to these journals can cost a single campus millions of dollars, and are increasingly dominating individual institution's collections budgets, leaving increasingly little room for other kinds of scholarly materials (such as print materials). The following diagram provides a breakdown of this situation.
(Image from http://guides.library.ucsc.edu/openaccess No changes made to Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)
Open access attempts to subvert this model by providing avenues for the distribution of scholarly works that exist outside this profit-driven dynamic (and it's certainly no coincidence that some of the strongest lobbying efforts against open access have come from the for-profit publishing world).
If you are interested in learning about a particular publisher's open access policy, the website SHERPA/RoMEO provides an exhaustive list of publishers and their open access policies.
The modern Open Access Movement had it's birth at a meeting convened by the Open Society Institute in Budapest in 2001. Given this, it is no surprise that open access is a global concern. Two current initiatives worth mentioning are OA2020 and Plan S.
OA2020 - This initiative currently has 133 scholarly organizations and universities (including UC Merced) across the globe as signatories to the initiative's Expression of Interest. This initiative looks to transform the scholarly publishing from a subscription-based model to an entirely open model by reimagining subscription payments as payments to fund sustainable open access platforms.
Plan S - This initiative was born out cOAlition S, which is a consortium put together by the European Research Council and other national research agencies and funders. This initiative requires that all research products and publications that are funded by state monies be made open access by 2020.
If you'd like more information on the UC Open Access Policy, open access in general, or other matters related to scholarly publishing, please schedule a consultation: