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Open Access Movement

Scholarly publishing giants like Elsevier own much of the knowledge that academics produce, in the form of the copyright to our articles. In the last few weeks, they’ve stepped up enforcement of their property rights, issuing "take-down notices" to, where some authors have posted PDFs of their articles. These articles were published in Elsevier-owned journals and are legally available only by subscription, often at exorbitant prices.

After journal staff sent the submitted manuscripts to academics to review and created PDFs in the style of the journals, the authors signed away their copyright to Elsevier. So Elsevier is certainly within their legal rights to not allow posting of the final article PDF to third-party sites, whether or an author’s personal webpage.

Some have suggested that we scholars should be actively rebelling against this situation by illegally posting the final article PDF to our websites.

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For those of you like me who were unable to attend the Open Access and Research Conference 2013 the organisers have kindly loaded the videos from both days on AOASG blog.

For those interested in Open Access, these videos are well worth the investment in time to watch.


Two university students have created “The Open Access Button” in response their and probably most researchers frustrations with trying to access academic research that sits behind a paywall.

The Open Access Button is a “browser-based tool to map the epidemic of denied access to academic research articles, and help users find the research they need.” To find out more an get the button see Tracking and mapping the impact of paywalls one click at a time.


In recent times there have been a number of drivers that have placed the notion of open access centre stage in many Australian universities. The biggest driver has been grant funder “open access mandates” especially those of the NHMRC and the ARC with a the move to compliance. A second major driver has been the release of the “Finch” Report" (Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings in the UK), it’s very quick adoption by RCUK with its support of “Gold Open Access” and the subsequent challenge to the Report by the BIS Committee report on Open Access and its support for the “Green” Open Access option.

With this focus on open access, publishers are offering various publishing models to authors which is causing some confusion, so it is timely the we reiterate the definitions of "Green" and "Gold" open access. It should be noted that even in this space there are a number of definitions as what constitutes green and gold however,\ I have tried to state the ones that we think are the clearest remembering that you can always contact your Faculty Librarian or the Sydney eScholarship Repository for further clarification or advice.

The definitions:

  • Gold open access: refers to work that is immediately available free of charge at the site of publication to any member of the public. Post-Finch it is commonly taken to mean that such access is supported by author-side article processing charges (APCs) …” (Vincent & Wickham, 2013, p. 121). In general terms the “Article Processing/Publishing Charge” means an author, upon the acceptance of a piece of work, is required to pay a fee for publication. “Pure Gold” open access journals are not subscription based and only charge an APC as a means of recouping costs (Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Open Access. Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, 2013, p. 3)
  • Green open access: refers to work that is made publicly available in a repository, institutional or subject-based, after an embargo period. Variants of Green open access depend on whether what is made available after the embargo period is the author’s final submitted text (or ‘pre-print’) or the article in its post-refereed form (or ‘post-print’).” (Vincent & Wickham, 2013, p. 121)

Where things get slightly more “grey” is where a publisher who has not charged an APC will, for a fee, allow open access for the published work on top of the subscription that the Library has already paid. Vincent and Wickham, 2013 refer to this as a “Hybrid” model. Usually under this scenario the publisher will allow “Green Open Access” after an embargo period however for immediate open access an author can pay to have the work made available on open access most commonly on the publisher’s site. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report refers to this as “Double Dipping” as the Library has already paid for the full subscription

Further complicating this is the fact that paying to have work made available on open access does not always mean you have full rights to your work, only that the work is openly accessible on the publishers site. This is important to note especially as authors may wish to increase the impact of their work through media such as institutional or subject based repositories.

There are numerous issues with both green and especially gold open access options and also the whole notion of what open access means to different disciplines within academic community. While there is not enough space in this post to cover it all we will be inviting a number of academics and researchers across the University to provide their views and issues. Many are already contributing to the debate see:

If you have anything that you would like to contribute please contact me, Sten Christensen. We hope that you will join the discussion and debate the issues.


  1. Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings. "Accessibility, Sustainability, Excellence: How to Expand Access to Research Publications. Report of the Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings ", 2012. []

  2. Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Open Access. Fifth Report of Session 2013-14, House of Commons (2013). []
  3. Vincent, N., & Wickham, C. (Eds.). (2013). Debating Open Access. London: British Academy, The.


The Australian Open Access Support Group have recognised our very own Associate Professor Alex Holcombe as “Open Access Champion” for 2013. Those not familiar with his involvement with open access can see him at a recent OA event at the University of Sydney Library.

Congratualtions Alex


The Australian Open Access Support Group have recognised our very own Associate Professor Alex Holcombe as “Open Access Champion” for 2013. Those not familiar with his involvement with open access can see him at a recent OA event at the University of Sydney Library.

Congratualtions Alex


Rupert Murdoch, a socialist of the publishing world? You had better believe it. It is good to see that the Guardian has reported who the real pirates and racketeers are in the publishing arena, namely the academic publishers. In his article “Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist” George Monbiot reports that the monopolistic racket that the academic publisher run make “Walmart look like a corner shop and Rupert Murdoch a socialist”. According to Monbiot, the late Robert Maxwell made most of his profit from academic publishing! and not the gutter press and page three girls.

The case that many academic publishers push in relation to their high costs is that they “add value”, however according to research carried out by Deutsche Bank the actual value add is very little. This is something that authors have known for a long time. The control the academic publishers wield over academic and research institutions is astounding. Even now that the open access movement is well underway we are still standing at the edge of the moat and the drawbridge to the academic publisher’s castle is still up. Throw someone a fiver (or £31.50) and they may lower it just for you, but only you.

Perhaps as the article suggests, someone should take this to the ACCC - Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. At least there is still one difference between Murdoch and the academic publishers, they are not in the business of phone hacking; yet.


During this past month Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd have begun to exclude non paying visitors to The Times web site. While there have been no official figures from New Ltd, The Guardian reports that the Times has lost almost “90% of its online readership” see - People are voting with their feet or their mouse in this case. It should be noted that The Guardian’s content is free.

In a similar vein the Chronicle of Higher Education on the 8th of June reported that The University of California were proposing to boycott Nature Publishing Group’s journals due a huge increase in subscription fees. The issue has been very succinctly put by Peter Suber in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #147 July 2, 2010 g. This article is very enlightening so please take the time to read it. The fact that a publisher, who’s content, is in the main, sourced from material emanating from publicly funded research institutes then sold back to the institutes with a very considerable mark up is outrageous.

The moral, don’t be afraid to ask that your published work be made available on open access and “Don’t sign your rights away!”


The Research Information Network [RIN], UK has published a a good and short guide to the Open Access movement. The guide is aimed at academics, information professionals and researchers,
The guide is available at: