A primer for open access (OA) scholarly communication

This guide serves researchers seeking impact and the administrators who support them. OA has multiple forms (Gold, Delayed, Hybrid, Green, etc.), and while these resources apply to all of them, this guide is focused on Gold OA: what it is, how it works for researchers, and how to implement it at your institution.  Gold OA is a publishing model operating outside of traditional scholarly communication. It serves immediate and free access to published research, which is often self-archived or supported by an author fee. Some choose to publish OA on principle, citing the exorbitant fees, restricted access, and forfeit of copyright inherent in the traditional scholarly publishing model. Others select OA for the practical benefit of widespread dissemination of their work on a global scale. Research and higher educations institutions  are incorporating OA measures like institutional repositories into their library operations to ameliorate the effects of the serials crisis and encourage scholarship’s impact factor. Use this guide to understand OA, browse journals, verify journal integrity, and learn how to structure your institution to support scholars in this venture.

What is Open Access?

Peter Suber, Director of Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication and author of MIT’s Essential Knowledge Series on Open Access, provides a concise overview of the topic here, although his article addressing 6 common false perceptions about OA is not to be missed, either. ERCIM and openscience.com also provide brief overview of open access as well as some beginning links.

Major OA Associations

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) formed this international alliance in 1998 to develop and advocate for an effective, sustainable network of OA publishers to enhance scholarship. SPARC provides access to articles, Open Educational Resources (OER), open data, and volumes of information for authors, administration, and advocates.
OASPA represents OA interests globally by sharing information, setting publishing standards, developing busienss models, promoting Gold OA journals, and providing education and advocacy. OASPA maintains a blog, hosts a conference, and aggregates information on OA efforts globally.
The SSP provides information on all aspects of the publishing industry, including archiving, copyright, library resources, publishing associations, and government resources.

OA Guides

Simmons College’s excellent and extensive wiki guide touching on every aspect of OA. This resource is by far one of the most comprehensive indexes of resources for authors, administrators, and advocates; begin with the table of contents.
This resource compiles information about disseminating scholarly work, research on peer review in OA, research impact studies, economics, and data management.
A clean-cut resource offering practical steps for implementing OA. With pages designed according to the audience, this is a user-friendly resource with refined resources for applying OA to different information needs and audiences.

Library Databases

These databases must be searched using your institution’s log-in credentials and have been chosen based on their ubiquity in higher education’s library collections. If you are unaffiliated with an institution, use the OA databases provided on the ‘For Researchers’ page to find scholarly articles on the subject. These databases will serve both the researcher and administrator, and will locate articles providing both theory and case studies toward your aim. Keywords are open access, scholarly publishing, scholarly communications, institutional repositor*, electronic publishing, OA, serials crisis.


This established database provides business research sources, including economics, business, organizational science, and marketing.

Academic Search Premier

Although it is one of the largest scholarly resources overlapping many disciplines, this database does not just repackage content found elsewhere: much content is exclusive. It is tailored to academic needs and will serve both researcher and administrator in finding specific information.

Emerald Insight

The materials found here attempt to bridge research and practice across nearly 3,000 journals and books. The materials focus on business, management, organizations, and education.

Communication and Mass Media Complete

 This database accesses over 600 journals covering all aspects of communication and media.

Education Abstracts

This database provides articles and books on the subject of education.

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Sciences

This database provides resources applicable from the both researcher and administrative perspectives. Taylor & Francis also offers an OA subsection of this database, accessible here.


ERIC holds a vast amount of education-specific resources regarding research and practice.

Professional Development Collection

This collection of full-text journals gives comprehensive coverage on the education field.

Suggested Article Bibliography

As evidence the OA movement has the benefit of global conversation, this article published in Spain details the growth of the OA movement and its origins int he serials crisis. It differentiates levels of OA (Gold and Green), covers institutional repositories, self-archiving, and the potential benefits to institutions and researchers should they follow best practices.
This paper details the OA movement’s economic roots and particularities. It also discusses implicates for institutions and the nature of publishing itself, including peer review, academic rewards, and intellectual property rights.
Lewis frames OA as one of Clayton Christensen’s ‘disruptive innovations.’ He argues that basic market forces combined with the utilitarian nature of open knowledge will bring OA publishing to the forefront of scholarly communications in the next decade.
This systematic review of the development of OA journals demonstrates its growth curve and the growing participation and support for OA publishing.

Sources for OA news

Open Access Map

In interactive map that charts the growth of OA across the globe

The Scholarly Kitchen

SSP’s blog covering ‘what’s hot and cooking in scholarly publishing’

Journal of Electronic Publishing

A forum for discussion about publishing practices. Started in 1995, its submissions range from scholars to librarians to technologists, and the search feature allows direct retrieval.

Open Access Now

This advocacy group curates news and information on OA and scholarly publishing from across the globe, featuring a vast archive of solid resources.

SPARC Open Access Newsletter

As one of the most active and influential OA associations, subscribing to the SPARC newsletter will help you stay current on developments in the field.


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