Open Access to Research

What is Open Access to Research?

As Peter Suber puts it, “Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Open Access works, that is, can be accessed and reused, for free, without having to ask permission from the copyright owner.

The basic principle driving the movement for open access to research is that the public should be able to freely access and reuse the research outputs that come out of public funding. This includes everything from books and journal articles to conference proceedings and research data. At present, most of New Zealand’s publicly funded research is not freely accessible. In fact, most New Zealanders have to pay a fee to access research funded by the taxpayer.

The good news is that this is quickly changing. Across the world, public funding bodies are insisting that all funded research be made freely available in order to increase public engagement, maximise innovation and accelerate the production of new knowledge.

Creative Commons and Open Access

As every researcher knows, research thrives in an environment of open and free exchange. To this end, Creative Commons is working with institutions and publishers to open scientific research for open access and reuse.

While much academic research still lives behind pay-walls, many researchers have decided to publish their research in open access journals, often under a Creative Commons licences. A growing number of institutions have policies encouraging or mandating open access publication, including Harvard, Otago Polytechnic, University of California San Francisco, Queensland Institution of Technology, MIT, Lincoln University and the University of Waikato.

Creative Commons licences are also being used to make scientific data freely available, especially in the public sector. Governments in Australia, UK, USA and Aotearoa New Zealand are using Creative Commons licences to open government data and research for public use.

How Open is Open Access?

Four basic concepts are used to help categorise the different flavours of OA.

Green and Gold refer to the manner in which a work is made available.

  • Green OA: a version of the paper is deposited in an institutional or discipline-specific repository, in addition to formal publication in a journal, sometimes with an embargo period.
  • Gold OA: the full, published version of the paper is made freely available by the publisher, sometimes for a fee.

Libre and Gratis refer to copyright and licensing restrictions.

  • Gratis OA: the paper is available to read free-of-charge, though its reuse is still restricted, for example by ‘All Rights Reserved’ copyright.
  • Libre OA: the paper is made available under an open licence, allowing it to be shared and reused, depending on which licence is used.

What Are the Benefits of Open Access?

At present, research outputs — that is, journals, books, conference proceedings and datasets — are either unavailable or unaffordable to the people who need them, including university libraries. According to the US Association of Research Libraries, library expenditure on journals increased by 340% from 1986–2007, almost four times the increase in the consumer price index over the same period.

These increases led to the Harvard University Library’s Faculty Advisory Council to publish a memo arguing that these increases had made “the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive.”

With thanks to the Australian Open Access Support Group and SPARC Europe, here are ten benefits of open access to scholarly research outputs.

  1. Taxpayers can access the research they fund
  2. Practitioners can quickly apply research findings
  3. Researchers from the global south can access published research
  4. Researchers are less likely to reinvent the wheel
  5. Institutions do not need to pay to access research published by their own employees
  6. Policy makers can utilise research findings
  7. Journalists can report findings to the public
  8. Educators from around the world can freely disseminate research to students
  9. Speed of research cycle is increased
  10. Greater exposure of research, potentially leading to higher citation rates

Open Access in New Zealand

International moves towards OA have come from both central government and individual funding bodies. While the New Zealand Government has not announced a position on open access to scholarly research, it has articulated a clear position on open access and open licensing to other publicly funded content and data, which you can read about in our Open Government page.

New Zealand institutions are quickly moving towards adoption open access policies and mandates. Otago Polytechnic adopted an open access policy in 2007; Lincoln University followed suit in 2013. More recently, the University of Waikato passed its open access mandate in March 2014.

Even without open access policies and mandates, though, some New Zealand researchers already choose to publish in open journals or deposit in institutional repositories, to ensure that their work is available to everyone who needs it. Additionally, contracts for the Marsden Fund, New Zealand’s fundamental research fund, include a clause mandating that researchers share their research data, meta-data and samples collected within 12 months of completion of the project (unless prohibited under any required ethical consent or approval).

Open Access in NZ


Open Access around the World

  • University of Liège (PDF)












































Learn More

  1. Our A5 guide to OA (PDF)
  2. The Australian Open Access Support Group
  3. Peter Suber’s excellent overview of open access
  4. UNESCO guidelines on open access policies
  5. Deborah Fitchett from Lincoln University on open research data
  6. The Budapest Open Access Initiative, which first defined Open Access in 2002

Get Involved

If you are keen to get involved, we recommend that you join one of the local and international communities.

If your organisation is passing an open policy, please let us know, and we can write a case study to help spread the word.

Logo Credit: Kiwi Open Access Logo by the University of Auckland, Libraries and Learning Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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