Open Access — Towards a non-normative and systematic understanding

Authors : Niels Taubert, Anne Hobert, Nicolas Fraser, Najko Jahn, Elham Iravani

The term Open Access not only describes a certain model of scholarly publishing — namely in digital format freely accessible to readers — but often also implies that free availability of research results is desirable, and hence has a normative character.

Together with the large variety of presently used definitions of different Open Access types, this normativity hinders a systematic investigation of the development of open availability of scholarly literature.

In this paper, we propose a non-normative definition of Open Access and its usage as a neutral, descriptive term in bibliometric studies and research on science.

To this end, we first specify what normative figures are commonly associated with the term Open Access and then develop a neutral definition. We further identify distinguishing characteristics of openly accessible literature, called dimensions, and derive a classification scheme into Open Access categories based on these dimensions.

Additionally, we present an operationalisation method to assign scientific publications to the respective categories in practice. Here, we describe useful data sources, which can be employed to gather the information needed for the classification of scholarly works according to the presented classification scheme.



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