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Scholarly Communication: Open Access

Open Access Myths

From Peter Suber's Field Guide to Misunderstandings about Open Access.

Myth #1: Publishing in an Open Access journal is the only way to make my work Open Access.

Fact: You can continue to publish in any journal you wish and make your work Open Access by depositing it in an open repository.  Many publishers already allow this, otherwise you can negotiate with your publisher to retain this right.  Contact a librarian for more information on negotiation.


Myth #2: Paying to publish in an OA journal is the same as vanity publishing.

Fact: Open Access journals can use the same peer review procedures, the same standards, and even the same people as toll access (TA) journals.  This isn't hypothetical, and actually happens whenever established TA journals convert to OA.  The key variables in journal quality are the quality of authors, the quality of editors, and the quality of referees, all of which are independent of the journal's price or medium.


Myth #3: I can't publish in an OA journal because I can't afford the fees.

Fact: Not all OA journals charge authors fees.  Many OA journals cover their costs through sponsorships or subscriptions to a print edition.  Some journals will waive fees if authors can demonstrate an inability to pay.  Also, many institutions are setting up Open Access Funds to help their faculty cover the costs of publication in Open Access journals.  

 

About Open Access (OA)

"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment." ~SPARC Open Access definition

Open access models are appropriate and beneficial for those who want their work to reach as wide an audience as possible and who do not seek to make money from the sale of their work.  

OA Through Self-Archiving (Green OA)

Making works available through a repository, referred to as self-archiving, is known as Green OA.  Repositories generally depend on the authors retaining sufficient copyrights or obtaining appropriate permissions to deposit the work.  Repositories may be institution-based or subject-based.

OpenDOAR: Directory of Open Access Repositories is an authoritative directory of academic open access repositories.

OA Journals (Gold OA)

Gold OA refers to making works open access through publication in an OA journal.  Authors grant the OA journal the rights it needs to publish their work, and the work is made available to readers for free immediately upon publication.  Many OA journals rely on ad revenue or sponsorship to cover their costs, while others may charge authors a fee to offset the costs of production.

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals in many subjects.

Predatory Publishers

Some unscrupulous publishers exploit the author pays model of open access to maximize their own income, and publish articles without applying full and rigorous peer-review.  This increases the challenge for authors seeking legitimate open access journals to publish in.  

Use the questions below as a starting place for assessing a publisher or journal; if you answer yes to most of the questions below, you’ve probably found a good journal.  If you're having trouble assessing a journal or publisher, contact a librarian.

  • Do I or my colleagues read research in this journal?
  • Do I recognize the names & reputations of any of the journal editorial board members?
  • Is the journal indexed in any major databases? (Web of Science, PubMed, etc.)
  • Has the journal been around for a while? (Not all new journals are bad, but many bad journals tend not to be around for very long.)
  • What organization publishes the journal, and can I contact them easily?
  • Is the publisher a member of COPE – Committee on Publication Ethics?
  • Is the publisher listed on or a member of either DOAJ or OASPA?
  • Are there clear editorial policies that are easily accessible from the journal website?
  • Is information about publication fees clear and easily accessible?

Gratis & Libre Open Access

When a work can be read or viewed without paying a fee for access, the work is free in one sense of the word.  It is free, like beer.  In this case the work is Gratis Open Access.  

When permission barriers are removed, allowing the work to be used in ways that would otherwise require the permission of the creator, the work is free in a different sense of the word.  It is free, as in liberty.  In this case the work is Libre Open Access.  Authors and creators can use open licenses, such as the Creative Commons licenses, to tell the world which permissions on the use of the work they are granting.

Funder Open Access Requirements

An increasing number of organizations that fund research now require that the results of that research be made available through open access channels.  The ROARMAP database contains the policies of many funding organizations. 

Examples of Open Access Policies