What is Open Access (OA)?
Open Access (OA), as its name implies, is a type of access — not "a type of content, license, or business model"  — that allows users access to materials without barriers such as cost, subscription, or copyright. OA literature is thus material that is freely accessible online with little to no licensing restrictions.
OA, however, is not just a form of access.
OA is also a worldwide movement within academic communities that arose in large part due to exorbitant subscription prices some publishing companies charge for access to their scholarly journals and databases.
Today researchers at all levels need and expect access to the top journals and most cited articles in the fields they study, and libraries and librarians across the world work hard to provide and enable that accessibility. Libraries both large and small, however, have and continue to have trouble affording many of the top academic databases and journals.
The OA movement works to alleviate some of these fundamental discrepancies by convincing and enabling journals and authors to publish material in a way that ensures free access for current and future researchers. One way they do this work is by educating authors on copyright. Another way they enable OA publishing is by setting up openly accessible databases that allow their work to be searched, cited, and disseminated without hindrance through the internet.
There are many different ways to publish using open access, but one common misconception is that open access publishing means anyone may post what he or she likes on the Internet. In fact, scholarly open access journals apply rigorous peer review to their content, and open access is in every way compatible with rigorous peer review. Many of the top cited, peer-reviewed journals now even offer Open Access publishing options to their authors (for a fee), and most journals now, regardless of being open access or not, will allow authors to self-publish preprint or postprint versions of their articles in Institutional Repositories.
What is an Institutional Repository (IR)?
An Institutional Repository (IR) is an online database that collects, preserves and publishes articles and other scholarly materials produced by an institution. Most IRs are maintained and promoted by universities or other research institutions, and collect the products produced by the scholars that the institution supports. Most IRs are open access as well, allowing anyone to read, download, and use the material collected therein for academic or other non-commercial purposes.
Just as the Open Access movement arose in part as a response to growing database subscription costs, Institutional Repositories have developed in part out of institutions realizing they were paying for research to be conducted and then having to rent back the fruits of that research (published articles, data sets, etc.) by purchasing (temporary) access to these articles from journal and database providers.
Some government and academic institutions have gone so far as to require that all articles produced using institutional funding be made (sometimes after a short embargo) openly accessible via their own or another institutions IR, thus ensuring that research that an institutions' members, which in the case of a government is taxpayers, pay for is available to those members.
For more information on Open Access and Institutional Repositories, see:
- Check and see what publishers' copyright and archiving policies are at Sherpa's Romeo Database: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/
- Peter Suber's excellent Open Access Overview;
- A growing directory of open access journals at Directory of Open Access Journals;
- ArXiv (Cornell) - The most extensive and longest-running open access repository provides open-access to e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology and Statistics;
- A growing directory of open access repositories can be found at the Directory of Open Access Repositories; and
- Open Courseware Initiative (MIT) - This site hosts freely-available educational materials which are specifically meant to be copied and used by faculty members for non-commercial purposes.
Open Access at the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho Library has established an Institutional Repository to serve the university by providing access to the scholarly works it has, does, and continues to produce. We are currently in the testing stages of an Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) system that will allow students to deposit electronic versions of their theses and dissertations into our online database. We hope to have the system in place by the end of this school year so we can begin collecting, preserving, and providing access for the scholarly work our students produce
Institutional Repositories also collect, preserve and publish past research and "gray" materials that are pertinent to an institution. Accordingly, the library has been working across the University to collect, preserve, and make accessible other scholarly works produced by the University of Idaho and its affiliates. We currently have three digital collections that are part of our Institutional Repository:
- Idaho Waters Digital Library
- University of Idaho Extension and Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station Collection
- Intermountain Forest Tree Nutrition Cooperative Collection
The University of Idaho Library is also currently digitizing the Gem of the Mountains, which was the University's yearbook for over 100 years. That collection will also be part of our Institutional Repository. To view an example of one of the yearbooks, use the embedded widget below.
If you have any further questions, or would like to be further involved in the implementation of an Open Access Institutional Repository at the University of Idaho, please contact Devin Becker at firstname.lastname@example.org.