Open Access Pt. I: Five resources to get you started!

Elizabeth Johnston
Graduate Academic Assistant, UBC Library & UBC Learning Exchange
MLIS graduate, UBC iSchool

Open Access research seems to be what everybody’s talking about these days, but what does it actually mean, why does it matter, and how does it impact the wider research community? Join us in this three-part series as we take a deep dive into the history of Open Access, current ideas and trends, and what you can do to make your work more accessible. In this post, we have collected a number of resource links with the hope of providing a good primer for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Open Access but have been too afraid to ask! There are helpful videos that explain the broader overview of the topic, its role and implication within academia, and some more practical resources that can start you on your way to learning more about Open Access.  

Image by: Janice/Unsplash

1. Watch: Online Access explained! (2012, 9 minutes). 

This creative video breaks down the history of the publishing industry and focuses specifically on the scientific community and academia. Using engaging cartoons and a conversational tone, this video makes the structural nature of this issue, the basics of Open Access, and the benefits of knowledge exchange easy to understand. It’s a great place to start if you are new to the topic or just need to refresh your memory.  

2. Plain Language Summaries now an option for authors on SAGE Journals (2022).

 Perhaps you are really keen on making your work Open Access, but you’ve run up against a few hurdles. Maybe the cost of this publishing route is not within your budget or what journal you publish with is outside of your control. Or maybe you’ve already jumped head first into Open Access publishing and are looking for even more ways to make your work accessible to a wider audience. If any of the above apply to you, then you might consider writing plain language summaries! These are short summaries of the work and are very similar to an abstract, with one key distinction being that they are written for a lay audience and without any of the subject specific language or jargon that can often be a barrier to understanding. As of January 2022, SAGE Journals has made plain language summaries an option for its authors, and are currently trialing this route for a selection of journals to “highlight research representing oppressed, marginalized or otherwise silenced communities”.  

Taylor & Francis publishers also have a plain language summaries model; however, it involves an additional fee.  

Wiley uses a program called Kudos, which is free for researchers, and gives you the option to provide explanations, impact statements, lay summaries, and links to additional resources for your work. 

If you are looking to add additional ways to engage with your work, like podcasts, infographics, or video abstracts, Wiley offers a comprehensive price package that can be found here

3. Shifting the tenure track. (2022).

At the heart of Open Access is the issue with the tenure track, or the pathway to promotion and job security for university professors and faculty members.  Despite all best interests, a growing awareness of making scholarship more accessible, and new perspectives on publishing, the pathway to becoming a tenured professor is still wound up in the “publish or perish” model. And publishing with certain “big name” journals at that. If we want to make real change, we have to address the foundations of the system. We can start by shifting the tenure track. This involves confronting and recognizing the issue, rewarding and incentivizing public and open scholarship, focusing on quality over quantity, and valuing non-traditional methods of scholarly output as a condition for tenure. Are you a tenured professor? The change can start with you! Empower and advocate for structural change within academia, and give publishers, young academics, and the community something to talk about.  

4. Author Rights: Using the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum

So, you’ve just written a great piece of work and it’s been accepted by a big-name journal. Congrats! You might be thinking that since it’s such a well-known journal, your work will reach a wide audience and loads of different people will be able to read it. However, because of the publication agreement you will have to sign with the journal, this will likely not be the case. In traditional publication agreements, all rights (and copyrights!) automatically go to the journal. What does this mean for you? Now, your work is tied to this journal and it becomes much more difficult to include sections of your own article in future work, share it with students or colleagues, put up on your webpage, and much more. Simply put, your article now sits behind a paywall and you will have to navigate embargo periods and the wild world of publisher permissions in order to distribute your work outside of the journal.  

Whew! You might now be wondering if there are any other alternatives or options, even after you’ve signed a publishing agreement? Yes indeed, there are! This is where The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) comes in. Committed to the democratization and accessibility of knowledge, this global network of academic and research libraries has created the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum. Effectively a legal appendix, this Addendum allows you to modify the initial publisher agreement and select which individual rights you would like to keep or give away for your article. Their main objective is to empower authors to better understand the way that publishing agreements work, the role of the author, and how we can collectively work together to shift the narrative to one of open, rather than limited, access. In other words: Your work, your rights. Learn more here 

5. International Open Access Week 2022

Now in its tenth year running, the International Open Access week is a global event for the academic research community to come together to learn about the potential of Open Access, share what they’ve learned over the year, and inspire others to not only make their work more freely accessible, but to establish OA as the new scholarly norm as well. Organized by SPARC, it’s a great place to ask questions, expand your understanding of OA, and discover ways to advocate for policy change at a local level. There’s many ways to get involved, sign up and find out more here. This year’s Open Access Week will be held online everywhere between October 24-30, 2022.  

There is so much information out there on Open Access, and the movement is only getting bigger and bolder, which is so inspiring to see! The conversation really seems to be changing about how we think about, use, and manage information, and you can add your voice today.  

Can’t wait to get started on further research? Here are some good places to start!  

Do you have questions or feedback about this article? Do you have an idea for the news section or suggestion for the collection? Please reach out to community engagement librarian Nick Ubels at