Open Access basics

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (Bailey, 2006). The JEPS Bulletin first introduced the topic of open access with the interview with Martin Uhl. The JEPS editorial team is a supporter of the OA movement and publishes JEPS as an open access journal. But we would like to do more in helping the cause of open access publishing than just publishing JEPS. That is why we will try to introduce you to the topic of open access movement, literature and publishing through the JEPS Bulletin.

Some of you, as current psychology students, will someday create the world of publishing in psychology – as authors, reviewers, editors and maybe publishers of scientific journals. What better time for you to understand the importance of open-access for psychology than now, when you are at the beginning of your career? Imagine a world where Maris Vainre does not have to write a how-to article about ways of getting access to pay-to-view journals, because all the high impact, relevant psychology journals are open access and you can read them without any restriction. If you like that idea, read along and find out more about open-access. Even more importantly, be sure to remember what you read here when you become that renowned author, reviewer or editor of some high impact psychology journal.

First and foremost, here are the base three terms you need to learn when talking about OA (based on the glossary found on this page):

  • Open access (OA)– the scholarly communication reform movement that aims to make scholarly literature freely available on the public web. An umbrella term, open access includes both open access journal publishing and author self-archiving in digital repositories or on personal websites.
  • Gold OA – when a journal charges its authors to make a particular article OA. The article will be peer-reviewed, and the article will be OA from the time that it is published
  • Green OA – an article that has been deposited into a repository such as a university archive or subject repositories such as PubMed. In most cases there is no cost to deposit the article, making it OA. There is sometimes a time lag from the time of publication.

We will focus here on Gold OA. When talking about Gold OA, we need to be sure to understand what exactly are open-access journals, such as JEPS. Bailey (2006) defines OA journals as:

Open access journals have the following characteristics: (1) they are scholarly, (2) they utilize quality control mechanisms like those of conventional journals (e.g., editorial oversight and copy editing), (3) they are digital; (4) they are freely available, (5) they may allow authors to retain their copyrights, and (6) they may use Creative Commons or similar licenses.

This definition should dispel any misconceptions about OA journals and their scientific merit. They are peer-reviewed and, by definition, no different in quality of published work than non-OA journals. The only difference is in the level of access to the articles published – one is open to all and the other to a select few who can pay. That is exactly what the open access movement is about – freeing knowledge to all those interested, be them the general public or the expert public. Now that we have the basic understanding what OA is, we should ask ourselves why is it important to move to an open access model in scientific publishing? Is an open access model of some kind economically feasible, considering the fact that maintaining and publishing a journal costs money? To offer answers to these questions, I present you two lectures.

The first one is a lecture at CERN given by a Harvard professor Larry Lessig. Professor Lessig explains why the standard copyright model hurts the authors (scientists) and the general public, and how the current architecture of access to scientific knowledge completely misses its purpose.

The next lecture is a TED talk given by Michael Nielsen about the impact on research of a more widespread open access policy. He shows, on a number of examples, how the ideas of open access work in practice.

In psychology, open access journals and publishing are still at their beginning. The renowned and highly cited journals in the field are pay-to-access. That’s why psychology students are the perfect population for raising awareness about the importance of OA. If we want our discipline to profit from free and equal access to the research results produced within psychology, we need to make it happen ourselves.


Bailey, C.W. (2006). What Is Open Access? Retrieved from: (2011, April 29th)



Ivan Flis is a graduate student of psychology at the Center for Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb, Croatia. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of European Psychology Students (JEPS) and the Chair of the Right to Research Coalition Coordinating Committee for Africa, Europe and Middle East.

Ivan Flis

Ivan Flis is a PhD student in History and Philosophy of Science at the Descartes Centre, Utrecht University; and has a degree in psychology from the University of Zagreb, Croatia. His research focuses on quantitative methodology in psychology, its history and application, and its relation to theory construction in psychological research. He had been an editor of JEPS for three years in the previous mandates.

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