Open Access refers to literature that is available online, free of charge, and with limited or no licensing restrictions. Examples include papers found in institutional repositories, articles in PubMed Central, or journals that make all their content free to the public, like PLoS Biology.
It is not uncommon for OA journals to charge an article fee to the author as a means of offering the free-to-read content. Unfortunately, this has led to some unscrupulous business practices where sham journals accept any article so long as the author pays the fee. While Open Access attempts to remove the barriers to access to information, one must still apply a critical eye to any journal's solicitation for publication.
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating an OA journal:
A more complete list of questions has been compiled by Ryerson University.
Currently, JMU Libraries does not have a fund available for faculty looking to offset the author fees generally associated with Open Access publications.
Use this browser button to identify whenever you hit a paywall and if it's possible to locate the article in an OA format.