Monday 5 August 2013

Introduction to Open Access

Open Access (OA) is the practice of providing unrestricted access and use of content (e.g. research data, academic publications, governmental data) via the World Wide Web. For instance, the provides free access to 9948 journals covering a wide range of domains, such as Law and Political Science, Computer Science, and Agriculture.
Although the modern OA movement can be traced to mid-60's, its principles can be attributed to Paul Otlet (1868-1944), who began the creation of an open repository (called ) of facts in 1895. The following year, he developed a mail-based question answering service using the 400,000 facts they had accumulated. Nowadays, the repository contains over 15 million facts and the service is seen as a precursor to online search.
With the advent of the World Wide Web in the mid 90's, the focus on open access of scholarly material has been more prominent. For instance, launched a website offering a free search service of scientific and academic papers. Although it did not always allow access to a paper, it provided a database of bibliographic information (e.g. citations). In the last few years, the movement has gained even more prominence with many countries defining manifestos to make governmental data publicly available. In June 2013, the G8 published a to provide open governmental data to their constituents.
From a legal perspective, the OA movement has been made possible through the expiration of copyrights or by copyright holders consenting to make content freely available. The permission to access and re-use content can be expressed via one of the licenses. For instance, the attribution license (i.e. ) allows third-parties to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon on someone's work as long as they credit the original source. Through its licensing model, the content made available through open access can be legally shared and re-used. The image below describes the different types of Creative Commons licenses. Note that the image was originally part of an article on how to publish a book under Creative Commons license.

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