In the last few Things, we looked at alternative ways of sharing your research. In order to give your research proper academic credibility, it is important to provide readers with links to peer-reviewed, published articles. However, this presents the reader with a problem: Access.
(If your research is not yet published, there is also the problem of copyright, which we talked about in Thing 8.)
Traditionally, research is written up into articles, which are submitted to a publisher, peer reviewed, and then published in an academic journal (if you want to know more about this process come to our publishing workshops). Institutions must pay both to submit the article, and to buy the access to the article (called a journal subscription).
This limits the availability of academic papers to subscribing institutions, journal members, and one-off fee-payers.
Open Access is about making research papers freely available to anyone who is interested.