Open Access Publishing

Open Access Publishing

In another post, we’ve shown that it is perfectly possible to make your work Open Access even if you’re not publishing in Open Access Journals. This post wants to give an overview of recent trends and challenges in Open Access Publishing. (‘for dummies’: I am sure that a lot of information can be added. Please leave your remarks in the comment section below!)

In traditional publishing systems,researchers submit their articles to journals. To have access to these journals, institutions pay subscription fees to the publishers of these journals. The rising cost of these subscriptions (often sold in packages), were one of the catalysts of the rise the Open Access movement.Because Open Access articles are freely available to the public, authors soon experienced that the visibility of their work increased pretty impressively, often resulting in more sharing and more citations (check this bibliography curated by Steve Hitchcock for more information)

Over the last years, Open Access publishing has actually become quite big business (see, for example, this article in Nature ), with both new publishers coming up with innovative businessmodels, and established publishers rebranding existing journals or creating new Open Access journals. Business is booming, but this also means that there is a lot of confusion about Open Access Publishing and it is all too often assumed that Open Access publishing always involves these Article Processing Charges (whether this misunderstanding is being kept alive deliberately, I leave in the middle … ).

Don’t forget:

Open Access does not equal Open Access Publishing. If you feel that publishing in an Open Access Journal is not for you, you can still make your work Open Access by self-archiving it in a repository.

Where to find an Open Access Journal?

Hey, you’ve probably received tons of offers in your spamfolder (at least, I do, and I am not even a real scientist! ).

If you are looking for an Open Access Journal in your field, the most logical step is to check the DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals). They list almost 10 000 OA Journals and have a transparant quality control system (they remove journals from the list if they don’t meet quality standards).

I’m also trying to keep an overview of Open Access options per research field – but because this is such a fast-changing sector it’s not easy keeping it up to date. I welcome all additions!

APCs (article processing fees)

Currently, the best known business model is the one where publishers ask Article Processing Charges  – where authors pay a fixed fee to cover the editorial costs publishers make (although most Open Access Journals don’t charge them! ).

Although only a minority of Open Access publishers charges APCs to its authors, perception with authors is often that all Open Access Publishing is funded like this. Recent controversies about fraudulent publishers charging APCs without offering quality publishing have done the image of Open Access Publishing little good, not to mention the association of Open Access Publishing with poor quality or even lack of peer review.

First, let’s get some misunderstandings out of the way

  • OA publishing equals payment of APCs: a majority of Open Access Journals doesn’t charge Article Processing Charges
  • APCs are always ridiculously high : APCs can vary from 5 € to 5000 € – and a lot of publishers easily grant waivers:
  • APCs are a milking cow: bonafide publishers use them to cover the costs that come with the publishing process – transparancy about what the APCs are used for is a serious pro when determining whether a publisher is trustworthy (see, for example Ubiquity Press )
  • Funders oblige researchers to pay APCs and strain their budget further: most funder mandates simply ask to make research available in OA – which is perfectly possible at no additional cost for the researcher (through self-archiving). A lot of funders also consider APCs as eligible cost (this means that they can be included in the project budget)
  • OA publishing is not-for-profit: all major commercial publishers offer OA and/or hybrid OA options, and some OA publishers (such as PLoS) are self-sustainable

Quality issues

Although there is not a causal relationship between Open Access Publishing and journal quality (after all, Open Access is only a means to make work available) – the link between fraudulent publishers and Open Access is often made. Of course, due to the specific nature of Open Access Publishing – in some cases authors pay hefty APCs – and the DIY image of publishing systems like OJS have – make OA publishing rather attractive for fraudulent publishers (coined as ‘predatory publishers’by Jeffrey Beal)

Add to that the fact that a lot of OA Journals are very young and often don’t have a solid reputation of impact factor (yet) – and judging whether an OA Journal is bonafide can seem a tricky task.

First of all, use your common sense and check the journal’s website:

  • is it clear who’s in the editorial board?
  • transparency about the peer review process and APCs
  • is there a contact form?
  • what are the copyright policies?

If you are still in doubt about the quality of the journal you want to publish in, there are several resources on the web to help you along.

  • Is the journal featured on DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)?
  • Is the publisher a member of OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association) ?
  • Is the journal featured on SHERPA/RoMEO (the list of publishers with OA policies)
  • Is the journal featured on Web of Science? (check here and here)
  • Beall’s list of predatory publishers (although some publishers claim that their presence on this list is not justified). Beall also made his list of criteria available, if you’re up for some research yourself identifying fraudulent publishers should be possible
  • A pretty useful list was also featured at the bottom of this blogpost by Gunther Eysenbach following the October 2013 Science article (Who’s afraid of peer review?), an article that – though it has been heavily criticized for its own questionably research methods and lack of peer review – does point out the need for better quality control when it comes to Open Access Journals.

Quality issues are not only limited to OA journals, but as OA publishing has become ‘big business’ the focus tends to be on this form of publishing. I think we can conclude that, just like in traditional publishing, a little common sense goes a long way.

[post by Gwen Franck]

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