Skip to Main Content
Today's Hours:

The OPEN Movements

The basics of the 'Open' philosophy and its varied sub-movements. Plus, relevent resources from the Whittemore Library.

Open Access (OA) means...

The Open Access Movement Logo: Anoragne lock that is opened. and open online access to academic information, such as publications and data.

OA's general definition is literally that simple.

  • To get the very first open access materials, it took
    • The creation of the internet
  • And to get open access materials which were openly-licensed with new, easy-to-use legal licensing tools, it took:
    • The Creative Commons organization "creating and providing the public with CC licenses and public domain tools that give every person and organization in the world a free, simple, and standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; ensure proper attribution; and enable others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works."
      • Which is why those licenses are what are most often used today for openly-licensing essentially everything except software (which most often uses GNU General Public Licenses (GPL) licenses for its open licensing).


So, to access means openly-licensed scholarly items that are free and on the internet.  (And yes; here we will acknowledge that not everyone has internet access and/or tools with which to access it, and thus do not have equal access to these openly-licensed, free materials.)


At this point, you may be saying to yourself, "But what exactly is this 'academic information' that's online? Give me specific examples!"

Sure - see below!

Open Access Scholarly Journals

'Open Access' most often refers to online academic journals containing scholarly articles that are free for anyone to read, and whose contents are openly-licensed. The very first open access journals were online even before there were 'graphical user interfaces'; their contents had to be downloaded to be read. Obviously, browsers quickly made publishing and reading online journals much easier.

Because open access journals do not charge money to anyone to read them, and still require some income to maintain (not as much as a print journal, of course), they often charge the authors who are being published a fee called an 'article processing charge' (APC), funding which pays for editing, the cost of renewing the website's registration, server space, etc. This fee may be paid by authors, their institution, or grant funding. The APC means that in OA journals, you pay to publish, instead of paying to read.

And yes, if a researcher has access to less financial support, they may find it harder to pay the APC to publish in an OA journal, especially the older, more well-known journals that include OA articles (and much higher APCs). This can and does leave researchers from less advantaged institutions, including those in less wealthy nations, less able to publish and be part of the scientific conversations in their field.


Find these online journals in the:


Online Open Access Journal Directories

Open Access Scholarly Books

Also called 'monographs', these are free, online, openly-licensed scholarly books that focus on a specific topic.


Many open access scholarly books are listed by the...

Open Educational Resources

Open Educational Resources are free, educational materials that are available online and are either:


  • In the public domain (i.e., no longer protected by copyright, basically, now 'owned' by all us, the public)
    • Creative Commons also created a public domain dedication tool (CC0); it makes it easy for creators to dedicate their material as being in the public domain, available for all to use with no copyright restrictions at all

OER includes materials such as:

  • textbooks
  • assignments
  • teacher guides
  • recorded lectures
  • quiz or exam question banks
  • lab manuals
  • scholarly books
  • open homework generators
  • curricula
  • entire courses
  • lesson plans


that can be used for teaching, learning, and research.  (Keep in mind that one can of course use OA articles and scholarly books as class readings, too, and could even use open data as part of an assignment.)

Because OER are openly-licensed, they can be altered and customized in ways that no 'all rights reserved' material ever can.

OER's unique, customizable nature can make it a game-changer in the classroom, via an instructional technique called 'open pedagogy / OER-enabled pedagogy'.


Find OER (which are archived in repositories, on open publisher's sites, in institutional repositories, and also listed in directories/referatories) using online search tools such as....

Open Access Repositories

Yes, I know - an online repository isn't a resource itself, but it's a great place to store free, online academic resources.

Some people think that theoretically, open repositories could replace scholarly journals as the place to (self)-publish scholarly articles (though as we can see, it hasn't been quite that simple).

The very first academic online repository was arXiv, founded in 1991 by Paul Ginsparg and now maintained and run by Cornell University.

"arXiv is a free distribution service and an open-access archive for nearly 2.4 million scholarly articles in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics. Materials on this site are not peer-reviewed by arXiv."  That means arXiv is what is known as a 'pre-print' repository - the articles are in the form in which they have not yet been peer-reviewed and officially published by a scholarly journal.

Archiving pre-prints there and in other pre-print repositories can be a way for researchers to 'lay claim' to their research idea in pubic, even before their article is published.

Find open access repositories (for pre-print articles, and for other types of openly-licensed materials) in directories like the:

Open (Research) Data

Open data is data that can be freely used, re-used and redistributed by anyone - subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and sharealike.

- Open Knowledge Foundation

Researchers have begun to archive the actual data they've collected, either openly-licensed, or dedicated to the public domain, in open repositories.

Making ones research data available to everyone can make 'Open Science' easier - for example, others can examine your data and may thus trust your conclusions more.  It's also possible to use someone else's data to do additional research - by analyzing it in a different way, for example. Someone else's research could even involve examining and analyzing data from multiple studies done by other people to derive new knowledge.

Increasingly, research funders are requiring researchers to make both their research articles and the data they analyzed available to all. If you receive research funding which requires your data to be archived, you may want to learn about best practices for research data management.

Many repositories with open data are listed in the:

What ARE 'Open Licenses', Anyway? Copyright, Open Licenses & the Public Domain

Copyright, (part of an author's rights), Open Licenses, and the Public Domain are all related - because they're all on a continuum - the continuum of intellectual property rights in our culture, which:

  • are held/controlled by the authors/copyright holders
  • are protected by the force of law
  • can be sold or given away via licensing/contracts


  • the authors/copyright holders don't get to keep these rights forever.


Copyright as a general concept is actually pretty simple - it's all the little legal details, and the fact that there are deliberately built-in exceptions, with no 100% crystal clear guidelines on how to not break the law when taking advantage of certain exceptions, and that copyright infringements usually lead to civil court cases and involve understanding the pattern of  legal 'precedent' based on judges' decisions... that can make copyright a bit unnerving.  (Okay; all that actually is kind of complicated...when you look at it that way...)


Copyright: How our culture protects creators' intellectual property

Anyone who takes an idea and turns it into a fixed expression - meaning, it's not just in your head; it's in a fixed form, such as art, music, writing, video, etc. - is a creator (we'll call them authors for short).

Here in the U.S., an author automatically owns a bundle of temporary 'copy rights' - they have the right to make copies and distribute them, to make adaptations or derivative works, to perform their work, to exhibit it in public, and to authorize someone else to exercise those rights. (We'll talk about the built-in exceptions to copyright law later.)

In all cases, authors have that right to make money from their intellectual property, such as by selling copies of their works, but these days, they often do it by licensing or selling some or all of those rights to someone else. (Think of famous writer Stephen King selling the movie rights for his next blockbuster to a movie studio for a nice chunk o' change.)

(Ironically the culture of academia has historically been such that authors who write scholarly articles aren't in it for the money, but instead for recognition and reputation, and often completely sign away their articles' copyrights to journal publishers - for free!)

In any case, if not sold or given away, these rights in the U.S. for an individual author currently last for their entire lifetime - plus 70 more years.  (Which yes, means their descendants or heirs to whom the copyrights pass can continue to make income from that intellectual property for some time).

After that period of copyright protection, the rights to use the work passes to the public (meaning we all own it now), known as being in the public domain.

Additional 'moral rights' that belong to authors include the right to always be known as the author of that work. (One reason that correct citations - a form of that acknowledgement -  are so important in academia.)


Voluntarily offering some of your copyrights to the public: Open Licenses

As stated above, authors can license out to others some of what normally would be the author's copyrights, usually for a fee.  But with the advent of the internet as a new publishing platform, some people wanted an easy way to let the public know that they were willing to voluntarily give up some of their copy rights, for free. (This is known as 'Some Rights Reserved'.)

In order to make this easier, an organization called Creative Commons was formed in 2001, and legal experts there sat down and created six 'open licenses', legal tools to make it easy for authors to mark the works that they were loading to the internet, letting  the public know immediately what they could and could not do with their uploaded works.


Voluntarily waiving your copyrights, permanently,  and donating your work to the public by labeling your work as being in the public domain

Creative Commons also created a way for authors who wanted to mark their works as being given to the public domain - meaning there was no copyright protection; the entire public now owned that work and could do what they liked with it - to make that status clear as well. 

Basically, these licenses each had a visual design that could be added to an author's work to mark it as openly-licensed, but make no mistake - each license's visual mark is paired with a 'license deed' - a true legal document with the force of copyright law behind it. Meaning, if you misuse an openly-licensed work, and don't obey the terms of the license - you're breaking copyright law.


the copyright continuum

So, now you see that these three concepts of intellectual property rights with related legal tools, exist along a continuum - from most protective and restrictive (All Rights Reserved) to a bit less restricted (Some Rights Reserved), to the most open and unrestricted (In the Public Domain).

The Existence of Openly-Licensed Materials Make the Following Activities Possible: