Celebrating Open Access

Open Access (OA) is often the starting point towards open licensing and Open Educational Resources(OER) and is an important aspect of Open Education Practice (OEP).

What is Open Access?

“By ‘open access’ to the literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.”

The Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities


The benefits of using Open Access resources to support study, teaching, and research include:

  1. Equitable access to resources for all students and researchers wherever they’re based.
  2. Reduced dependence on publisher e-books and journal licences which can be prohibitively expensive.
  3. Openly licensed resources allowing others to easily distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the work, making it simpler to create learning and teaching resources.
Open Access Research

Our Scholarly Communications Team works closely with academics and publishers to ensure that as much as possible research is being published in open access journals. To further this cause they’ve worked incredibly hard to create the new Research Publications & Copyright Policy (2021) which details our approach to the new open access requirements of major research funders from 1 January 2022. Open access papers are also where possible open licensed for even greater sharing and re-use of important research.

An excellent example of the importance of Open Access and how it also relates to Open Practice is the creation of UNCOVER, a staff-student partnership led by the Usher Institute that was set up to conduct rapid evidence reviews of COVID-19 research in response to requests from policymakers. The UNCOVER website, developed by Website and Communications, is based on Open Source software and provides links to Open Access reviews and journal articles, in addition to open licensed educational materials and workshop resources for others conducting rapid evidence reviews. Topics covered include racial and ethnic variation in COVID-19 risk factors and outcomes, transmission and infectivity of COVID-19 in indoor and outdoor environments, COVID-19 in schools, use and effectiveness of facemasks in different community contexts, clinical features and comorbidities, and the prevalence of post COVID-19 syndrome.



Open Journals and Textbooks

Edinburgh Diamond, is a new service provided by Edinburgh University Library that supports the publication of academic and student-led Open Access books and journals. The service supports staff and students to create and publish their own Open Access journals, i.e. journals that provide permanent free online access to their content so journals can be read by anyone, without price barriers. They have also now launched Open Textbooks using Open Monograph Press (OMP) to support the publication of academic and student-led Open Access books. Open Textbooks are both Open Access and Open licensed to allow for adaptation and re-use in addition to price free access.

The first Open Textbook published on the new system is our very own Fundamentals of Music Theory open textbook! The result of a project funded by a University of Edinburgh Student Experience GrantOpen e-Textbooks for Access to Music EducationLed by Dr Nikki Moran and Lorna M. Campbell, the project was a collaboration between the University’s OER Service, and staff and student interns, Kari Ding, Ifeanyichukwu Ezinmadu and Ana Reina Garcia, from the Reid School of Music.


Open Collections

We also have a wealth of open access digital heritage materials in the Centre for Research collections,publicly available accessible heritage collection comprising of 44,000 digitised books, images, and resources. Where copyright restrictions have been identified as no longer applying then items in this collection have been identified and made further available on the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

Browse the images.is.ed.ac.uk collections 


Open Data

The Library is also working to increase the range of collections available as downloadable datasets. Datasets can be used as the basis for digital scholarship research, enabling researchers to undertake computational analysis of collections through techniques such as text and data mining, image recognition and data visualisation. Available collections as data include the University’s theses collection which is the largest collection of digitised doctoral theses in the UK. Other open and reusable datasets are widely available, including from the National Library of Scotland’s Data Foundry.