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Scholarly Communication Services at WSU: What Is Open Access?

This guide is designed to increase awareness of significant issues associated with scholarly communication. It also presents resources for WSU researchers who wish to explore alternative avenues for sharing their scholarly work with a global audience.

What Is Open Access?

Open access (OA) is a model of scholarly communication that has been presented as an alternative to traditional academic publishing. OA materials are freely available online with little or no restrictions to access. The open access movement pushes back against the traditional model of publishing whereby authors sign their scholarly work over to publishers, who in turn charge academic institutions and the general public large sums of money for access to this information. In general, the open access movement supports the idea that research--particularly research funded by the public--should be available to the public at no charge. The open access movement seeks to empower authors to retain control over their own work and share it with the public as they see fit.

What Does Open Access Look Like?

Works are generally made open access by following one of two paths, which have been labeled "gold open access" and "green open access." In addition to these two types of open access, there exist hybrid models that combine traditional and open access publishing strategies. See Peter Suber's Open Access Overview page for more information about these models of open access.

  • Gold OA material is published in open access journals which make their content freely available to readers. Open access journals may or may not charge authors processing fees to fund the journal.
  • Green OA consists of work previously published in traditional journals but subsequently archived online, on a personal website, a social media site, or in a subject-specific or institutional repository.
  • Hybrid OA comprises journals that charge subscription fees but make certain articles available open access. Often the author is required to pay article processing charges (APCs) in order to make her work open access in these journals. Hybrid publishing (and supporting funders) has attracted criticism of late for increasing the primacy of publishers with already monopolistic tendencies.

Why Open Access? WSU's Land-Grant Mission

Washington State University is committed to sharing its knowledge with the local and global community. Because of its land-grant heritage, the university is uniquely positioned to help resolve problems related to health, water, food, energy, education, and quality of life. Overall, the open access philosophy fits neatly both with the goals espoused by the university's primary funders and the recommendations issued as part of the 120-Day Study of the WSU Research Enterprise. This latter study was completed at WSU in 2014 in order to better understand how local expertise can be more widely shared with regional and global audiences--a mission in keeping with open access publishing.

Why Open Access? Increased Visibility and Impact

Open access allows researchers to increase the visibility of their scholarship in a digital world. Studies suggest that research made available open access receives more citations than work published solely through traditional methods. Open access publishing allows researchers to share their expertise with a global audience.

Percent increase in citations for articles made openly access (on average, summarizing studies carried out 2000-2010)

(Taken from Alma Swan (2010). Open access citation advantage: Studies and results to date. Retrieved from

Why Open Access? Rising Costs of Academic Publishing

The rising cost of academic publishing has inspired interest in open access solutions. For instance, research libraries experienced an approximately 300% increase in journal prices between 1986 and 2006 while the consumer price index remained at approximately 84% over the same time period (for details, see the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an international alliance of academic and research libraries that advocates for increased open access). Overall, by eliminating subscription costs, OA may provide a more viable economic model for maintaining access to information.

Average cost of US journals as compared to the Consumer Price Index. Source: 2012 Study of Subscription Prices for Scholarly Society Journals.

(Taken from College of Wooster. (2013). Open Access Resolution. Retrieved from

Contact Us

Talea Anderson's picture
Talea Anderson
Scholarly Communication Librarian
Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation
Washington State University Libraries

Open Access Tracking Project: News

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us