Back in the fifth century B.C., networking was already at the heart of Ancient Greece’s innovation. Socrates himself felt the urge to share ideas rising above the chatter with peers as he couldn’t philosophize alone.

Even on a mapping level, cities were built around an “agora”—a vibrant public meeting place easily accessible to citizens eager to trade, discuss, and exchange. Beyond propagating the vibes across the population, the conversations that happened there, and the ideas that they bore eventually reflect the social interactions that still affect us today.

Although education access was, at the time, highly dependent on gender status, one way or another throughout the ages, mankind has always kept a record of discoveries and historical facts readily available on physical supports.

Entering into a digital age

Nowadays, the Internet has fundamentally reshaped how information is stored. Along with it, the dynamics of knowledge gathering, learning, and dissemination are hinged upon the accessibility to industrial servers and platforms.

From a scientist’s point of view, discoveries are worth their pennies when validated by peers and put in print across renowned publications. Still, to allow bundling up on previous breakthroughs—and to complete additional citizen outreach— information needs to circulate widely and be readily accessible to interested parties.

But, while providing quality control to advancements in various fields, the historical scientific publishing industry has been giving headaches to many with access limitations and hefty financial constraints for many users.

As a result, pioneers started envisioning an alternative future by building the “Open Access” movement.

Open Access in history

In 1991, the arXiv repository came to life at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LAN-L), thus rendering preprints in physics freely accessible. Later on, this seed idea led to the creation of additional similar platforms across the digital sphere.

Eager to scale up the movement, several international scholar institutions and scientists gathered around, thus drafting in early 2001 the ‘Budapest Open Access Initiative’ declaration which seeks free and unrestricted online access to scholarly journal literature in all academic fields.

Two years later, the ‘Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing’—stressing the importance of disseminating scientific research results as quickly and efficiently as possible—was released. 

At the end of 2003, the ‘Berlin Declaration of Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities’ arose, defining open access as a comprehensive source of human knowledge and cultural heritage that has been approved by the scientific community. By removing structural and geographical barriers that hinder the free circulation of knowledge, the declaration still contributes to date to increased collaboration, ultimately strengthening scientific quality and capacity.

While Open Access provides worldwide and fast online access to research outputs at no cost for researchers and other third parties (e.g. NGOs, SMEs,…), it comes in different colours and shapes.

Golden Open Access

Gold OA is an open-access publishing model in which the publisher makes all articles and related content available for free immediately on the journal’s website, usually by requiring the author rather than the reader to bear the costs of publication. In such publications, articles are licensed for sharing and reuse via creative commons licenses or similar.

Green Open Access

Green OA is an open-access publishing model in which both the publisher and the author make the article freely available. Therefore, independently from publication by a publisher—for which there is no charge—, the author is allowed to post his/her own work to a website controlled by the author, the research institution that funded or hosted the work, or to an independent central open repository, where people can download the work without paying.

Hybrid Open Access

Hybrid OA is a publishing model that contains a mixture of open access articles and paywall access articles. A publisher following this model is partially funded by subscriptions and only provides open access for those individual articles for which the authors (or research sponsor) pay a publication fee.

Bronze Open Access

Bronze OA is a publishing model in which all articles and related content are available for free immediately on the journal’s website but are not formally licensed. Without a said license, articles can’t be redistributed or reused, for example, in presentations or course material. Without explicit permission, they also can’t be mined by computer software.

Diamond Open Access

Diamond OA is a publishing model destined for not-for-profit, non-commercial organizations, associations or networks publishing material that is made available online in digital format, free of charge for readers and authors, not allowed for commercial and for-profit re-use.