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Open Access: About Open Access

Open Access (OA) refers to the online access of scholarly literature that is free to read and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

What is Open Access?

"‚ÄčOpen Access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.  What makes OA possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.  OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. " - from Peter Suber's Open Access Overview.

Open Access means that:

  • Researchers can easily access scholarship no matter where they are located in the world, regardless of whether or not they're employed by an institution that can afford publisher subscription fees; and can reach a wider audience more easily, ensuring their work is more widely read, cited and built upon. 
  • Academics can easily share readings with their students and not have to worry about legal restrictions.
  • The public and alumni can easily access scholarship (e.g. medical studies) whether or not they're enrolled in (or employed by) an academic or research institution.  In other words, research that is very often publicly-funded (via government grants) becomes publicly available.
See below for:
  • Background: the crisis in scholarly communications.
  • Open access explained (video).
  • Open access in policy, including funder mandates.
  • Scientist meets Publisher (video highlighting the inequity of the standard publishing model).
  • Glossary of definitions.
  • Links to learn more about Open Access.

Open Access in policy

Publishing in an Open Access journal complies with the University's Open Access to Research Policy, which states that the products and outputs of research conducted at Western (including research data) should be appropriately archived and made openly available for re-use and citation wherever possible. 
For non-open access outputs, a publisher compliant version of the paper can be made freely available in ResearchDirect following an embargo period. The Library Research Team manages this process. 

Note: Many journals require the underlying research datasets to be made freely available with the published article. Notify the Library of a dataset here and a staff member will be in touch to facilitate this process.


Both major funders of Australian research mandate that research outputs from projects they have funded are to be made freely available following an embargo period.

NHMRC and ARC both specify that any publications arising from research projects they have funded must be deposited in an open access institutional repository (e.g. ResearchDirect) within a twelve month period from the date of publication.

NHMRC Open Access Policy 

ARC Open Access Policy 

Other funding bodies may also stipulate open access requirements in their agreements and researchers are advised to check agreement terms closely to ensure compliance.

To discuss mandate compliance, please contact the Research Services Consultant.

Background: the crisis in scholarly communication

Since the first print-based scholarly journals launched in 1655 the publishing landscape has irrevocably changed.  The rise of the internet and digital publishing has made dissemination of research findings easier, faster and cheaper.  However the cost of journal subscriptions has not reflected this major shift, with subscription fees continuing to rise at dramatic rates every year. 

As a result, many libraries (which are the primary purchasers of scholarly journals) are forced to make subscription decisions based on budgetary limits.  In fact, there is no institution in the world who can afford to subscribe to all the peer-reviewed research required by their faculty.  Scholars in less-wealthy countries are particularly disadvantaged by the prohibitive cost of access.

The traditional publishing model also sees authors routinely signing a standard publishing agreement which transfers the copyright of some, if not all, of their work over to the journal (without any financial reimbursement) which further prevents the open sharing of research. 

The end result is that often the authors and peer-reviewers dedicated to advancing knowledge do not receive a cent, yet must themselves pay to access scholarly articles. 

Open Access aims to address these issues and provide more equitable access conditions for all, along with more options for authors to retain full control over their work.


Article processing charge (APC)

Fee charged to the author or creator, to cover the cost of publishing and disseminating an article, rather than charging the potential reader of the article. APCs may apply to both commercial and open access publications.

Author's accepted manuscript

Version of a manuscript that has been accepted by a publisher for publication, has completed the peer-review process but has not yet been published; also known as a 'post-print' (see this diagram).

Embargo period

A length of time imposed on a research output before it is made freely available (some publishers only allow an item to become freely available after a set length of time, often 12 or 24 months).

Institutional repository

An online database designed to collect the intellectual output of a particular institution or university.  For e.g. WSU's ResearchDirect, which collects research publications by current University staff and students, as well as theses, creative works, patents, research data and descriptions.


A manuscript draft after it has been peer-reviewed but not yet published; also known as 'author's accepted manuscript' (see entry above) or 'accepted author version'.


A manuscript draft that has not yet been subject to formal peer review, usually distributed to receive early feedback on research from peers; also known as 'submitted version'.

Publisher's version

Final version of a manuscript as it appears in the journal after peer review and processing by a publisher, also known as 'version of record'.

Subscription model

Business model whereby a fee is paid in order to gain access to scholarly research outputs, usually journals.

Version of record

Final version of a manuscript as it appears in the journal, after peer-review and processing by a publisher; also known as 'publisher's version'.

Adapted from: 

Learn more

A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access by Peter Suber, Havard Office for Scholarly Communication

Open Access Australasia - authoritative source for all aspects of OA information in Australia and NZ. 

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) - global coalition committed to making OA the default for research and education. 

Analysis & Policy Observatory (APO)'s Open Knowledge collection - resources promoting openness and innovation in research dissemination. 

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