Open access journals publish peer-reviewed research that is openly available- that is, there is no charge to the reader- and are openly licensed to allow for reuse and redistribution.
Finding Open Access Journals: a good place to look is the Directory of Open Access Journals, where you can filter by several parameters, including subject, language, fees, license, and more. See more options in the box to the left.
Business Models: Open access journals use a variety of business models. Some of the best known OA journals have an article processing charge (APC) which authors can cover through their grant (NIH or NSF) or an institutional fund like Virginia Tech's. However, most OA journals do not have an APC, and are supported in a variety of ways.
Licensing: Open access journals are not just openly available, they are licensed in a way that allows reuse and redistribution. The most common license used is the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Open licensing facilitates use in research and teaching because permissions have been given in advance. Subscription journals, on the other hand, use copyright to limit what libraries and their users can do with journal articles.
"Hybrid" Journals: Some subscription journals allow authors to pay an APC to make their article open access. These journals have some articles that are openly available, while others are behind a paywall. Institutional funds like Virginia Tech's no longer support APCs for hybrid journals due to "double dipping" -- the library is paying twice for the same material. APCs for hybrid journals also tend to be higher (often around $3,000) than for fully open access journals.
Deceptive Publishers: The rise of the APC business model for some OA journals has also created some scam journals that do nothing more than put an article online and then require payment. These are usually the journals filling your email inbox with spam. Check a journal's membership in DOAJ, its publishing record, or editorial board (see a suggested checklist and journal quality indicators if you're uncertain).
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