Becoming a Professional III: Open Access

Open Access

Accessing scholarly articles is often difficult, as many are kept behind a paywall and only accessible through a subscription (personal or through a library). 

Open Access is a movement that provides research results in an open format, so anyone with internet access can read the information.  Some faculty will make their research available through an open access journal, but there are also mandates for researchers whose funding was provided through a government agency (e.g. NIH (National Institutes of Health) or NSF (National Science Foundation)) that require access to the scholarly outputs from that research be made accessible one year after publication. 

There are several options to seeing if you can find an open access article about your research area:

A lot of researchers are now making the last copy of their materials (before formatting and final editing by the journal) available in their institutional repositories.  At Virginia Tech, we have "VTechWorks" (indexed in Google Scholar, as are many other institutional repositories, but unfortunately there isn't a way to narrow your search to those entities).

And finally:

Some publishers (Springer, Elsevier, Wiley, etc.) will have "hybrid" journals where authors can pay to make their articles open, even though the journal is traditionally accessible only through a subscription.  Look for an "unlocked" padlock, or "green" (for go) icon that indicates the material is openly available.



Image result for open access logo

[Image from Wikimedia Commons]

Searching Google for openly available resources

While there are several websites of questionable nature, generally those with a .edu and .gov extension will have solid information.  To limit your search results in Google for these types of sites, type in site: followed by the .extension:

for example, hyperthyroidism cats

  • for the .gov site, you will often find a lot of PubMed citations, as this database runs on a .gov site.  To remove those results, use the minus key (or hyphen) in front of another part of the PubMed database extension, such as ncbi so Google omits that from the search results.  For example, compare the following two searches:

hyperthyroidism cats

hyperthyroidism cats -ncbi