This week is Open Access Week, created to raise awareness about the possibility that research can be accessible for free and this can be viable economic model. In some way, RePEc has always been part of the Open Access movement. It tries to improve the dissemination of research in Economics, not by publishing said research, but by democratizing its discoverability both for the author and the reader. There are various ways in which RePEc helps Open Access, and also in which Open Access helps RePEc.
RePEc was initiated to disseminate working papers, which are pre-prints that emerged due to the horrendous publication lags economics enjoys. While working papers were initially distributed in the print format, it is now standard to find them online, and with only very few exceptions, they are not behind a pay-wall. As RePEc tries to match working papers with their published article versions, a reader frustrated by a pay-wall for an article can often find an alternative Open Access version.
Note that even when authors are not in an institution with a participating RePEc archive, they can still get their works indexed in RePEc by uploading them to MPRA, as long as they satisfy their publisher’s copyright. For a handy list of what individual publishers allow, see SHERPA/RoMEO. This list also shows that it is very rare for a publisher to require that one has to withdraw a working paper upon journal publication. In such cases, we strongly recommend not to remove it from RePEc, but rather to remove the link to the pdf only (and certainly not to remove the paper from the author profile).
RePEc also helps promote Open Access journals. Those are usually young and do not (yet) enjoy the reputation of their older, gated peers. At RePEc, every article is on the same footing and we let the market decide what people find interesting or citable. In fact, we find that material that is available in Open Access is downloaded 73% more frequently than gated material, and in the latter case there may also be quite a few failed downloads as we can only count clicks, not their success.
Open Access also helps RePEc, foremost by allowing us to download the research material for citation analysis. Indeed, if publishers do not provide us access to their reference lists in one way or another, we cannot count citations. Users may now help us in this regard, but all these efforts would not be necessary if the pdfs were freely available.
And if you are interested in bringing a journal to Open Access, do not hesitate to contact the author of this post. We can help in giving this journal visibility and find the right partners to make the move or the birth easy.