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What is Open Access and Why Does It Matter

Everyday on university campuses around the world scholars engage in research that is crucial for the advancement of human knowledge and that leads to important innovations and discoveries. This research is largely paid for by taxpayers, through faculty salaries and through research grants. Communicating the results of research is a necessary part of the research process, and for most of academic history, research has been shared through scholarly publications: peer reviewed journals and monograph publications. But access to research and publications has been limited by high cost and use restrictions. Subscription fees for scholarly publications are beyond the reach of most individuals, and for most people, having access to a college or university library is the only way to get access to research publications. And colleges and universities pay dearly for that access, in essence creating a system in which taxpayers pay for research twice: once when it's created and again when it's published. The Internet gives us an opportunity to significantly change the model of scholarly communication, and one avenue through which that change is happening is the Open Access movement. Open Access publishing enables free and open access to research publications online, making them available to anyone with an internet connection. There are several models of Open Access publishing. A growing number of scholarly journals and changing their publishing models to allow for Open Access. In many instances, authors pay a fee to publish their research in Open Access journals, although articles still go through a peer review and editorial process. A list of Open Access journals is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Authors can also choose to deposit their research papers into digital repositories which conform to the standards of the Open Archives Initiative. This usually requires negotiation of copyright with any journals in which the research papers have also been published. Repositories may be subject-based repositories dedicated to specific fields of research, or they may be institutional, gathering all the research output at a particular university. Sonoma State University's institutional repository, ScholarWorks, is dedicated to archiving and providing access to the research output of Sonoma State University. Increasingly, universities and research granting bodies are implementing policies requiring that funded research be published in an open access venue. These policies are meant to ensure that the taxpayers who funded research have equal and open access to the results of that research. The Open Access movement has the potential to significantly change the way research is communicated around the world, making it easier and more affordable for new discoveries and new knowledge to be shared, and opening the doors to faster innovation. Open Access publishing will ensure that research isn't locked away and limited to only those select few who are part of higher education research institutions. The week of October 20th through the 26th is International Open Access Week, an event created to draw attention to the benefits of Open Access. This week we'll be sharing information about Open Access with the campus community. Find out more about Open Access Week and what you can do to help ensure that access to research is expanded around the world.