Open Access (OA) is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. — Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition
Read more: SPARC Open Access factsheet
OA seeks to eliminate barriers to knowledge access and enrich scholarly discourse by widening the scope of participation.
For-profit academic publishing restricts public access to peer-reviewed scholarly research, much of which is publicly funded. In this model, peer review is done by other scholars without compensation and authors don't own the rights to their scholarship.
In 2012, for-profit publishers averaged an 18.9% profit rate, compared with Wal-mart's 3.6% and Exxon Mobil's 10.7%. (Fuchs, C., & Sandoval, M. (2013). The diamond model of open access publishing. tripleC, 11(2).)
Open Access initiatives exist within a larger movement that includes initiatives around Open Educational Resources, Open Science, Open Data, Open Pedagogy, and more. The common thread among these initiatives is the removal of barriers to education, science, data, pedagogy, and scholarship with the intention that these activities and resources be used to benefit society.
Open Access is a dynamic and evolving field. These are commonly used terms. These and other terms can be found at the Glossary of open access terms published by the Imperial College of London.
Immediate access, no fees for authors or readers. Non-commercial, nonprofit publishing. Learn more at the International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM).
Immediate access. Authors pay APCs (see below).
Preprint articles can be archived in institutional repositories, perhaps after an embargo period.
Fees levied by the publisher to the author.
A period of time during which the article is only accessible to paid subscribers.
Preprint articles are typically the final draft of an article before it undergoes peer and editorial review.