Open access refers to the practice of making journals and their articles available for free rather than being locked behind a paywall. It can promote a greater access to research by removing the subscription-based model that databases have used for decades now and instead allows the dissemination of research, which can then be the foundation for further works and ideas. Access to databases, and therefore the articles they deliver, is often limited to libraries and universities as the rates for subscription will often outweigh the benefits of subscribing for individuals, especially when the range of journals that a subscription may offer is not specific to their interests.
Supporting open access instead can offer a greater development of knowledge, but there are also some drawbacks. As the open access movement is still recent, the academic community still has to adjust its policies and researchers have to adjust their publishing habits. For instance, researchers in science, economics, and medicine will often be pressured to publish in high impact journals (journals that are heavily cited). Open access journals often do not have the same clout and influence as these more historic journals. Additionally, publishing as an open access article can often involve extra fees for researchers from publishers, which can be especially difficult for researchers as they are not paid by publishers for their work.
Open access, as it currently stands, is an uphill battle for academics. However, its a movement that can ideally allow a greater engagement with research beyond the current boundaries of academic communities. By supporting open access, the economic interests that govern tertiary institutions, academic development, and independent scholarship can hopefully be alleviated.