Open Access (OA) is the idea that publically funded research should make its outcomes accessible for the public to see.
OA journals are often peer-reviewed.
They are published the same way as standard journals.
The costs of producing and distributing are shifted from those who want to access the material, to those who produce the material. Often this is paid for from grant funds or the institution may provide an open access repository.
More exposure for your work
Practitioners can apply your findings
Your research can influence policy
Complies with grant rules
Researchers in developing countries can see your work
(CC-BY Danny Kingsley & Sarah Brown)
OA has three main components:
Open Access makes research results freely available to anyone with an internet connection rather than keeping those results hidden behind a subscription paywall.
Open Access exposes your research to a wider audience and makes it easier for other researchers to find and cite it.
There are thousands of OA journals, but some journals and publishers are more open than others; some are hybrid offering select articles as OA, while others are less open again. This spectrum of publishing options is charted in 'HowOpenIsIt'.
Signing a copyright transfer agreement with a publisher does not necessarily stop an author from making their work open access as there are two different approaches to Open Access Publishing, known as "Gold" and "Green" publishing. The Open Access Publishing page in this guide has more information on these.
Introductory writings about open access by advocate Peter Suber