There’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there about open access (OA) publications. Here on Day 2 of Open Access Week, it seems like a good opportunity to dispel some of the most persistent myths.
The most common reason authors choose not to publish in OA journals is that they believe OA journals are lower quality than subscription-based journals, with lower impact factors and a lack of peer-review. They think that publishing in OA journals will hurt their chances for tenure, or lessen their professional reputation. The truth is, just as there are poor quality subscription journals, there are some poor quality OA journals. And just as in the subscription journal world, there are a lot of very highly respected OA journals with vigorous peer-review processes and high impact factors.
Another reason some people believe OA journals are lower quality than subscription journals is the idea that OA journals accept lower quality work along-side high caliber research. Again, what’s happening in the OA world is just like the subscription world: what gets accepted varies from journal to journal. One OA journal that gets this reputation of accepting “too much” is the very well respected PLOS ONE. PLOS ONE reviews submissions on the soundness of the science and methods of the research. As an OA journal, PLOS ONE doesn’t need to sell “sexy” titles or results to subscribers, so, unlike most subscription journals, they can publish excellent research on what some might consider less interesting or ground breaking topics.
Works that are freely available to readers are not free for publishers to produce. There is no one, standard way that OA publishers have worked out to cover costs. Some authors don’t want to publish in OA journals because they’ve heard that some move the cost from the readers to the authors. And there are some OA journals that do this, it’s true. However, most OA journals do not charge “author fees,” as they’re commonly known. Many of these fees are paid for by research grants or, in some cases, by the universities or institutions where the research was carried out. It’s also important to note that many subscription journals also charge the authors a fee for publication.
There’s a common belief that charging authors to publish leads to predatory publishers running rampant in the industry. Predatory publishers are those that publish anything submitted and cash in on author fees. These types of publishers exist in both the OA and subscription world, so it’s important to know where you’re publishing. And if you really don’t want to pay a fee, or have your institution or funding agency pay a fee to publish your work, find another quality OA journal that doesn’t charge one; there are plenty out there that don’t.
… & Benefits
Librarians have been aware of how unsustainable the traditional subscription-based model of publishing is and have consequently been early supporters of OA. But we’re advocates for more reasons than just “How’re we gonna pay for this?” By nature, we librarians love sharing information. We know that having and providing access to information leads to greater advancements of knowledge. As a bonus, we know that the researchers we support will be more visable – and, by extension, more influential – by publishing OA.
Copyright & Reuse
Another way that OA is good for authors is that they can reuse and share their work. Many researchers are teaching faculty. Articles published in subscription journals often have restrictions on how they can be used once they’re published. Even if you wrote the article, you might not be authorized to use the material in your courses or in book you may want to write later. While material published OA is copyrighted, you tend to have more freedom with what you can do with a work published OA than one published in a subscription journal. Wherever you publish, make sure to read anything you sign, know your copyrights and, if possible, maintain your author rights.
For more myths and truths on open access, I recommend the links below. Check back for more OA-related blogs from TU Libraries during OA Week 2013.
Also check out the Open Access guide from TU Libraries!