Open Access

Open Access means access to information without payment.
In an academic context it refers to the ambition of publicly funded institutions to make the results of their research available to anyone who is interested -  without charging for it. In the context of academic publishing, Open Access aims to ensure:

  • that those who finance research through taxes, are able to read about its results,
  • that publications reach as large an audience as possible,
  • that researchers and those who employ them, can inform others about research results in the way they see fit

In addition, the costs of subscriptions to scholarly journals and databases continue to rise while library budgets continue to shrink. As a result even well-funded universities sometimes have to make painful choices, closing subscriptions to journals that their researchers may need.
So, academic, legal, moral, and financial arguments all play their part in a process that in recent years has been debated with great intensity. Open Access is used in the meaning, that of the Erasmus University’s ambition to make as much as possible of its ‘product’ available for free, and of the policy it has developed to accomplish that.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Quick distribution of scholarly research. There is no need to wait for months, for example, for an article to fit with the theme of a journal before it can be published.
  • Free worldwide access for a large audience. This way makes it possible for people without connections to a scholarly institution to have access to results of scholarly research.
  • Greater visibility of scholarly output for both the researcher and the research institution. This can have a status-heightening effect.
  • Research shows that open access publications are cited more often on the average than closed publications.
  • Efficient archiving and availability.
  • Guaranteed sustainable storage and accessibility.


  • Prestige. Faculties and management teams often base their evaluation of a scholar and the value of research on citation indices and the Journal Impact Factor of the scholarly journal in which the researcher published. This mentality must change before open access can replace the traditional form of publishing.
  • Quality control. In contrast with the strictly regulated process of peer review, quality control differs from one publication to the next in open access. The quality control is especially low in repositories; some repositories also contain dissertations as well as theses (RePub, however, does not contain theses). The methods of quality control in open access journals vary greatly.
  • APCs (Article Processing Charges). Open access journals often ask for APCs, which are meant to be paid by the author or the scholarly institution. Consequently, new scholars (primarily) are not in the financial position to publish in open access journals.
  • Fewer options among journals with status/high impact factor. 

The leading principles of Open Access

The principles of open access were set down in three different declarations: Budapest (February 2002), Bethesda (June 2003) and Berlin (October 2003). Although these declarations differ from each other on a number of points, they all agree on the following points*: 

  1. Open access publications must be and remain freely accessible to everyone with an Internet connection--researchers, students and the general public;
  2. Open access publications will be published online and included in at least one online repository;
  3. The author of an open access publication permits the user to (re)use the content for the benefit of research;
  4. This permission to (re)use is given on the condition that there is correct source citation and plagiarism (and such things) is not committed;
  5. The author must give this permission for free, worldwide and irrevocable use beforehand via a non-exclusive licence.

* From: "Open access policy at Erasmus University Rotterdam and Erasmus MC"; a note written by the UL and the ML, submitted to EUR's Executive Board and Erasmus MC's Board of Directors. 

Green and Golden Road

There are two ways to publish an open access article:

  • The Golden Road - via online journals. Open access journals strive for maximum accessibility of their articles and are therefore accessible for free or at very small cost. The articles that appear here are peer-reviewed, just like articles in paid journals.
    In principle the author (or his institution) pays the so-called Article Processing Costs (APC) to the publisher.
  • The Green Road - self archiving via one's own website or via repositories.  These are digital systems in which authors and repositories archive the author's version of publications.
    Open access articles can be found most easily through Google Scholar or Google. Other ways of finding articles are OAIster, OpenDOAR or, for Dutch articles, Narcis (repositories of all Dutch universities).


At present the Open Access world is hybrid as Open Access (both Gold and Green) can be a policy at the level of a publishing company, a journal and even of individual articles in the same journal.

The right to give away

It is good to realize that in both cases – Green and Gold - the author and/or his employer only retain (or buy) the right to give away for free what they have produced – a right that is theirs to begin with. Also: by giving away what is theirs, universities will not reduce subscription costs, certainly not in the short term, since they still need to buy access to the published results of research that was done in the rest of the world.

Background information

  • A complete list of publisher copyright policies and self-archiving is available on the website of Sherpa.
  • More information about Open Access is available at and the website of Peter Suber, Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College.
  • A very extended bibliography about Open Access has been compiled by Charles W. Bailey, jr. This bibliography is available online.
  • SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has made an animated video explaining open access to research and why it's important.

Open Access statements

  • Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities This declaration is the result of a conference held in Berlin in October 2003.  It calls on researchers to make their material freely available by publishing it in Open Access journals or by uploading it to repositories on the Internet. The Executive Board of the Erasmus University Rotterdam signed it on January 25, 2007.
  • Budapest Open Access Initiative 
    This was one of the first statements advocating open access to scholarly literature. It was published in 2002.