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Open Access (OA)

Open access (OA) refers to a much-discussed ideal in scholarly communication: unrestricted global access to scholarship made possible through electronic publication. Debate centers around who will pay to create and maintain this access, and what the impact of such access will be upon intellectual property issues.

There have been three major definitions for open access to date, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (excerpted below). Collectively these are understood as the BBB (Budapest-Bethesda-Berlin) definition of open access, with which nearly all open access proponents agree.

The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), dated February 14, 2002, articulates this ideal for scholarly interchange:

An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds. Removing access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge. (BOAI)
The Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing, dated June 20, 2003, has defined (for the biomedical community) an open access publication as one meeting these two conditions:
  1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship[2], as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
  2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository). (BSOAP)

The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (dated October 2003) states that

"Establishing open access as a worthwhile procedure ideally requires the active commitment of each and every individual producer of scientific knowledge and holder of cultural heritage". Open access contributions include original scientific research results, raw and metadata as well as source materials and digital representations of pictorial and graphical materials. The authors and right holders grant to all users a free, irrevocable, and universal right of access to these contributions and allow their work to be used, reproduced, or disseminated in digital form (provided correct attribution of authorship or copyright owner is given). Together with supplemental materials and the declaration of the right of use, the complete version of the work is to be made accessible in at least one electronic online archive. Such an archive can be maintained by academic institutions and federal or private organizations that subscribe to the principles of open access to and long-term archiving of publication material.

Two publishing models for open access exist: Open Access Journals and Open Access Archives (or Repositories). See Alternative Publishing Models.

Open access issues are concisely set forth in "Open Access Overview" by Peter Suber, editor of Open Access News.

The Open Access Working Group (OAWG), organized by SPARC (see Organizations and Initiatives) "is a group of like-minded organizations that began meeting in the Fall of 2003 to build a framework for collective advocacy of open access to research. The group seeks to build broad-based recognition that the economic and societal benefits of scientific and scholarly research investments are maximized through open access to the results of that research" <>

Ackowledgement is made to the Cornell University Library, "Transforming Scholarly Communications and Libraries" for much of the information on this page ("Open Access" -

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