Open access (OA) means free access to electronic research publications and research data. It also includes open code, open methodology and open peer reviewing.
Authoritative definitions of OA can be found in key political declarations on this subject, such as the Budapest Declaration (2002) and the Berlin Declaration (2003). These definitions describe 'access' in the context of OA as including not only basic elements such as the right to read, download and print, but also the right to copy, distribute, search, link, crawl, and mine.
Modern research builds on extensive scientific dialogue and advances by improving earlier work. Open science has become a priority for many countries and has featured prominently in high-level statements.
The ambitious plan of the European Union stipulates the prevalence of OA and open research data by 2020. This means making publicly-funded scientific information available online, at no extra cost, to European researchers, innovative industries and the public, while ensuring that it is preserved in the long term. Researchers are being encouraged to make their publications openly accessible with minimal restrictions. The significant benefit for researchers in making their work available this way is the potential increase in citation rates.
The European Union can influence the research system through different forms of legislation and research funding. All projects receiving Horizon 2020 funding are required to make sure that all peer-reviewed scientific journal articles resulting from Horizon 2020 funding are published as OA and deposited in an accessible repository.
In the context of research and innovation, OA to "scientific information" refers to two main categories:
a) peer-reviewed scientific publications (primarily research articles published in academic journals)
b) research data: data underlying publications and/or other data (such as curated but unpublished datasets or raw data).
OA to research data is less developed across EU countries than OA to research publications.
For more information:
ScienceOpen: research and publishing network
Open Access Directory (OAD) - a compendium of lists about OA to science; maintained by the OA community, hosted by the Simmons College
Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook: practical steps for implementing Open Access, by Alma Swan and Leslie Chan
Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA)
Open Access Overview - about OA to research articles, by Peter Suber