Open access

Reference Reviews

ISSN: 0950-4125

Article publication date: 13 June 2008



Latham, B. (2008), "Open access", Reference Reviews, Vol. 22 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Open access

Article Type: Eye on the net: new and notable From: Reference Reviews, Volume 22, Issue 5.

If you are reading this, chances are you are an academic librarian, and one of the issues that has been forefront in the world of academia is that of open access. As was illustrated to me at a recent professional meeting, there seems to be some perplexity over exactly what open access is some confuse it with Open Source, which is something else entirely. Open Source software can, however, be used with open access journals, as illustrated by the recent partnership between the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) and the Public Knowledge Project. But I digress.

According to an informative overview linked from Open Access News, open access literature is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions” (Suber, 2004). The main benefit of open access literature is, of course, that with the price barriers of subscriptions, licensing fees, etc. removed and no copyright worries, it is, as the name exemplifies, openly accessible to everyone. Different open access journals and projects sometimes vary, however, in how they address the rights of the authors. Some allow for free access, reproduction, and distribution in any shape or form, as long as the author is properly acknowledged, while others draw the line at derivative works. This lack of uniformity and how it applies to researchers whose works are published traditionally but who also wish to share them via open access can be confusing. The Open Access to Knowledge Law Project ( has created a database which attempts to address these issues.

The Open Access to Knowledge (OAK) Project is based at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia and is funded by the Australian government’s Department of Education, Employment, and Workplace Relations. Its stated mission is to “facilitate better access to research, especially that which is publically [sic.] funded by informing, educating and providing guidance to researchers, publishers, governments, research institutions, funders and repositories on the strategic management of and compliance with copyright for open access”. In addition to its other initiatives, the OAK Project has focused its energies on developing an online database of information pertaining to open access information about publishing agreements and publishers’ open access policies. Launched in February, this OAKlist database ( is aimed at anyone who needs information about open access, whether authors, copyright administrators, or managers of open access repositories.

OAKlist gets its information primarily by examining publishing agreements, published statements, and policies from publishers. These are requested from the publishers and, after they have been examined, OAKlist contacts the publisher to confirm details and make sure that there is mutual understanding. The OAKlist database was developed to be interoperable with its UK counterpart, the SHERPA/RoMEO database, so it uses SHERPA/RoMEO’s colour-coded categories to classify information (e.g. yellow means that one can archive pre-print literature). Users can also browse by colour, limiting to only those repositories that support the type and scope of access they are seeking. Keyword searching of titles and publishers is supported. The database is still unfinished; eventually there will be guides geared specifically towards authors (with information on open access repositories and publishing), publishers (information on open access and publishing models), and repositories (information on establishing and managing an open access repository).

In addition to these database resources, there is also the Directory of Open Access Journals (, which aims to be a “one stop shop for users to Open Access journals”. The Directory, which receives some funding from SPARC and is hosted by Lund University (Sweden) Libraries, collects and organizes open access journals to make it easier for libraries to integrate them into their existing services. Though the scope of the Directory is broad (it aims to be comprehensive and does not limit by language or subject), it does restrict itself only to those journals which have an “appropriate quality control system”. The Directory defines this as peer-review and/or editorial quality control.

These are just a few of the tools that can be utilized to find information on open access journals and repositories. With new open access initiatives popping up all the time, keep a weather eye out for more projects providing information and organization for them.

Bethany LathamInternet Editor, Reference Reviews, and Assistant Professor and Electronic Resources/Documents Librarian, Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, Alabama, USA


Suber, P. (2004), “Open access overview”, 21 June, available at: (accessed 25 March 2008)

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