John Frederick Peto, American, 1854 – 1907. Nine Books. c. 1890-1900. Oil on composition board. Yale University Art Gallery.

In the landscape of academia, access to knowledge remains crucial. A great deal of academic research has been restricted behind paywalls, limiting its accessibility to a privileged few.

However, the emergence of open access is reshaping the way scholarly information is disseminated and consumed. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into what open access is and how JSTOR, our renowned digital library, is playing a crucial role in facilitating open access for academic journals, books, art, and research reports.

What is open access?

Open access (OA) is a movement in academic publishing that promotes the free, immediate, and unrestricted availability of scholarly articles, research papers, books, and other educational resources to anyone on the internet. The core principles of OA include:

  1. Free access: OA content is available online at no cost. This accessibility ensures that knowledge is not defined by financial circumstances.
  2. Reuse and redistribution: OA content is often published under Creative Commons licenses that allow for reuse, remixing, and redistribution, fostering creative and innovative efforts.
  3. Transparency: OA promotes transparency in research by making scholarly work freely accessible, allowing readers to verify claims and engage in meaningful discussions.
  4. Long-term preservation: OA repositories are committed to preserving content for future generations, ensuring its availability over time.

JSTOR and open access

JSTOR has been a cornerstone of academic research for years. Initially, JSTOR was known for providing access to a vast collection of academic journals, but it has since grown to participate in the open access movement in several ways:

  1. Open access journals, books, and research reports: JSTOR is currently home to thousands of open access journals and ebooks, as well as over 34,000 research reports from more than 140 policy institutes. 
  2. JSTOR Daily: JSTOR’s in-house publication that uses scholarship to put current events into context. All stories contain links to publicly accessible content on JSTOR.
  3. Library-supported collections: Institutions like Cornell University, Johns Hopkins, and 200+ more museums, libraries, universities and archives around the world have shared their collections freely on JSTOR, helping to disseminate  knowledge beyond institutional boundaries. Additionally, Reveal Digital develops open access, primary source collections from 20th-century voices of dissent and is crowdfunded by libraries.
  4. Open Artstor: Artstor is JSTOR’s cross-disciplinary collection of millions of images from around the world. Over 800,000 of those images are freely accessible to all on JSTOR. Collected for their value to the humanities and sciences, Open Artstor images are contributed by museums, archives, and artists around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Science Museum Group, and the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa

JSTOR’s Path to Open

As part of JSTOR’s efforts to contribute to open access scholarship, in partnership with the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), University of Michigan Press, and The University of North Carolina Press to bring about access and impact for the entire scholarly community we have embarked on an initiative called Path to Open. Path to Open intends to be an onramp for open access to scholarly monographs, especially those representative of diverse perspectives and ideas.

The community-backed funding approach aims to offer libraries cost-effective access to a wide range of top-tier titles, ensuring sustainable publishing by university presses in the humanities and social sciences. It also aids authors in reaching a global readership and promotes equitable access for researchers globally.

Through this funding model, publishers will see reduced financial risks while libraries can further their endeavor to diversify their collections and invest in sustainable open access solutions. 

Benefits of JSTOR’s open access initiatives

JSTOR’s commitment to open access brings several benefits to the academic community and beyond: 

  1. Widened access: Researchers, students, and enthusiasts worldwide can access a wealth of academic resources, promoting global knowledge exchange.
  2. Increased impact: Open access publications often receive more citations and have a broader impact, benefitting authors and their research.
  3. Collaboration opportunities: Open access facilitates collaboration between institutions, scholars, and disciplines, fostering interdisciplinary and cooperative research.
  4. Public engagement: Open access enables the public to engage with academic research, leading to a more informed society.
  5. Global reach: JSTOR’s open access initiatives empower researchers and institutions in underserved regions, promoting a more equitable distribution of knowledge.

Challenges and future of open access

While open access has made significant strides, it also faces challenges. Sustaining the financial models required to support open access publication can be a hurdle, and the transition from traditional subscription-based models to open access can be complex. Additionally, ensuring the quality and peer-review standards of open access publications is crucial.

The future of open access, however, is promising. As technology advances and more institutions and publishers embrace OA, we can expect increased accessibility to knowledge. Collaborative efforts between libraries, universities, and digital libraries like JSTOR will play a pivotal role in this transformation.

The journey towards open access is an ongoing one, and as technology and collaborations continue to evolve, it promises a brighter and more accessible future for knowledge seekers worldwide. The democratization of knowledge through open access not only benefits academia but also society at large, contributing to a more informed and equitable world. With continued support for open access initiatives, we can anticipate a future where the gates to knowledge remain wide open for all who seek it.

Have a look at the first titles available through Path to Open. To join us on a Path to Open or to learn more about our open access initiatives, please visit our open access Books on JSTOR site.