What is Open Access and why is it important?

In its FAQs on open access, the Government of Canada, through its science.gc.ca website, offers this explanation of open access and why it is important:

“Open access is the practice of providing free and unrestricted online access to research publications and data. This greater access is expected to accelerate the progress of research, democratize access to knowledge worldwide, and ensure that publicly funded research is available to the public. Open access makes it possible for research results to have a greater impact and enables researchers, scholars, clinicians, policymakers, private sectors and not-for-profit organizations and the public to use and build upon this knowledge. Moving toward open access is a way to increase transparency, accountability and efficiency.”

Peter Suber, one of the leaders of the open access movement, has made his book Open Access (2012, MIT Press) freely available to those who want to learn more about the details of the issues and nuances of open access publication.