Access Denied! What Is Open Access and Why Is It Important?

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Filed under Library News:  Events

Open Access Week 2015 is upon us! Now in its 8th year, Open Access Week (Oct. 19-25) is an annual event that promotes Open Access (OA) in scholarship and research. McMaster University Libraries, along with other libraries and institutions around the world, are organizing and offering a week of activities and opportunities to participate in this global movement. See the library’s Schedule of Events for Oct. 19-23. 

Open Access removes the “paywall”—the need to pay for access—to research output and, increasingly, to research data, allowing researchers to more easily disseminate their own work as well as access other people’s scholarly work. The diagram below helps to illustrate the benefits of Open Access.

The Benefits of Open Access

Image used under a CC-BY licence. Created by Danny Kingsley & Sarah Brown. Image Source.

Open Access to academic research continues to generate some misconceptions. Below are two common myths about OA.

Myth #1: Open Access journals are low-impact and low-quality.

False! OA journals have grown in reputation, quality, and number among a wide range of disciplines. Highly-regarded publishers of OA literature such as Public Library of Science (PLOS) and BioMed Central, have also helped to increase the support for OA as more researchers and scholars are becoming frustrated with paywalls and limitations for distributing their own research.

Myth #2: Open Access journals are not peer-reviewed.

False! The peer-review process in OA journals is conducted in the same way as peer-reviewed journals from traditional publishers.

For more myths, see the following articles:
“Open Access: Six Myths to Put to Rest”  (The Guardian)
“Dispelling Myths about Open Access”  (MIT Libraries)

Open Access is now more important than ever to the scholarly community as journal fees are becoming unsustainable to subscribers, such as libraries, thus creating barriers for the dissemination of and access to important research. To learn more about these and other issues related to OA, please see the websites below and consider participating in Open Access Week 2015!

Explore McMaster University Library’s Open Access Webpage

Search MacSphere McMaster’s Institutional Repository

Find more information and resources:
OOO Canada
Open Access Week
Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

Elise Tung, Instruction and Research Librarian (Intern)
Emily Tyschenko, Digitization and Archives Librarian (Intern)