5 Reasons You Should Care about Open Access

Posted on October 19, 2018

By Marian Taliaferro - Digital Scholarship Librarian

October 22 is the start of Open Access Week, that time every year when we salute all things open access. “What is open access,” you say? According to Peter Suber, in the scholarly communications office at Harvard and one of the foremost champions of open access (OA), “Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.” This brings us to those 5 reasons:

  1. With open access, you can retain ownership of your scholarship:
    It sounds crazy to even mention this, right? You may think that if you write something it is yours, but many people sign away their copyright to commercial publishers who make a profit from their writing. It used to be that this was understood as a trade-off to publish, but that is no longer the case for many publishers. Unless you sign away your ownership of your work, you can license how others use it by assigning a Creative Commons license to it.
  2. Your choice of where to publish has repercussions:
    Publishing is a big business. I mean Billions of dollars, and much of it supported on the backs of the academy—yep, that's us. This is because publications behind a paywall rely on free labor (faculty or student authors who write the articles), free peer review (faculty or members of learned societies) and sometimes even publicly funded research (federal grants). They then take that scholarship and sell it to folks including libraries. Is that fair? Many think not. That said, not all publishers are generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, and it *does* take money to run a publication. However, think first on who you are supporting when you go to submit that manuscript.
  1. Your publications contribute to the scholarly conversation:
    When your scholarship is open, such as when it’s in W&M’s institutional repository, ScholarWorks, others can more easily find it and respond to what you have to say. Conversely, you can read and respond to others works which have been made open access. Being conversant in this discourse is one element of the framework for information literacy (not to mention that you can impress your professors by being well-read in your interest areas).
  2. Making your work OA means you will get more impact for it:
    Study after study has indicated that works made open access receive more citations. So, if you’re going to write that article, and you want to get more readership and citations to it (and who doesn’t?), consider publishing it in an OA journal (search the DOAJ) or “self-archiving” a copy in ScholarWorks. (We’ll check on the permissions for you and post accordingly. There is almost always a version that can be posted, if not the final version.)
  3. Open Education Resources (OER):
    Buying textbooks each semester is painful, right? Even those “reduced-cost” online rentals or used print versions add up, and you don’t get to keep the online books once the class ends. Textbook (and tuition) costs nationally have risen over the years in a far faster rate than inflation.  In an effort to help, more openly-licensed textbooks are increasingly being created and adopted by faculty in order to save students money. Some community colleges have entire “z-programs” where you can walk out with an associate’s degree not having bought a single textbook.


W&M Libraries support open access in several ways. First is by offering education on it via our research guides and programming. Second is through our support for and provision of OA resources. We hope you find our resources useful and to see you at our upcoming events.