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Open Access FAQ

Information and resources addressing frequently asked questions on open access.

What is 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.

Open Access is compatible with copyright, peer review, revenue (even profit), print, preservation, prestige, quality, career-advancement, indexing, and other features and supportive services associated with conventional scholarly literature.

Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project

Open access:

  • can be peer-reviewed, in fact the major open-access initiatives insist on it.  Since scholarly journals typically do not pay authors, reviewers or editors, OA is completely compatible with peer review.
  • can be applied to books, journals, journal articles, videos, or any products of scholarly research.
  • allows anyone to access information by removing the cost burden and other access barriers from the reader. 
  • isn't free of production costs, however, and several OA business models exist.

The primary business models used in OA are the Gold model and the Green model (see below).


Gold Business Model

Access through a publisher is known as Gold Open Access. Journals are traditional publishing venues for scholarly research. Gold OA can be confusing because there are many variations. The Gold model includes the author-pays model, in which authors are charged a fee to publish in the journal, as well as journals funded through institutional subsidies or advertising.  "Hybrid journals" offer both closed and open content, charging an additional fee to make content OA.

Green Business Model

Access through a digital repository is known as Green Open Access. Digital repositories function as "storehouses" of publications organized around an institution or discipline. Institutional repositories host scholarly and creative works, research, publications, and reports contributed by faculty, students, staff, and administrative units of a college or university.  Other repositories, such as, host papers for specific disciplines only. Content in repositories often includes peer-reviewed content (publisher's version or post-prints) as well as pre-prints, the version of an article before it has undergone peer review.

Want more information?

  • Open Access Overview     A thorough introduction to open access by Peter Suber, the Director of the Harvard Office of Scholarly Communications.
  • Open and Shut     A blog by Richard Poynder, an independent journalist who has reported extensively on the evolution of the open access movement.
  • Open Access, by Peter Suber [Book]     A book written by Peter Suber, the Director of the Harvard Office of Scholarly Communications. The book itself is now available through open access, after a one-year delay from the initial print run. This book is also available in print at the library, call number Z286.O63 S83 2012.
  • A review of Open Access Book Publishing on behalf of the Oberlin Group    A thorough report focusing on open access monograph publishing, particularly in the humanities and social sciences.

The contents of this work are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This guide was created by Rachelle Ramer, former Research Librarian for the Sciences.  Questions or comments about this guide can be directed to