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Scholarly Communications: Open Access

What Is Open Access?

Open access (OA) literature is a method of sharing scholarship that is "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes OA possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.  OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review.  OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature."

--From Open Access Overview, by Peter Suber

Benefits of Open Access

Open Access is valuable because it:

  • removes all access barriers, providing completely free and unrestricted access to all
  • provides equitable distribution of information world-wide, regardless of social or economic status
  • provides immediate availability of research output
  • increases visibility and impact of research
  • increases usage of research results and leads to more citations
  • enhances reputation of authors and institutions
  • provides a platform for compliance with funder requirements
  • attracts potential collaborators
  • offers libraries a more financially attractive alternative to the traditional journal subscription model, where costs have increased significantly faster than the rate of inflation

OA Myths

MYTH: Open Access journals are of low quality, are not peer reviewed, and are the equivalent of self-publishing, and thus will be looked down upon by my colleagues and peers.

Most open access journals are peer reviewed with the same or higher standards as traditional scholarly journals.  There have been numerous studies showing an increase in impact by publishing in open access journals because of larger dissemination and increased accessibility.

Learn More: Open Access Citation Advantage: An Annotated BibliographyPLOS Article Level Metrics


MYTH:  Open Access means giving up all my copyrights in my work.

Open Access works within the current U.S. copyright system. When publishing with traditional scholarly journals, authors typically sign an agreement that transfers all their copyrights to the publisher, retaining no rights for themselves to re-use or distribute their own work. However, with open access journals, authors retain their rights to re-use their work in teaching and further scholarship.

Learn More: SPARC Author's Rights brochureKeep Your Copyrights - Columbia Law School


MYTH: Open Access is not a sustainable economic or business model of scholarly publishing.

Open Access publishers do not all operate using the same business model. There are several examples of open access journals operating successfully (e.g. PLoS, BioMed Central) and profitably without charging exorbitant subscription fees. Further, as a result of the success of these alternative business models, traditionally published journals are making changes to their structure by offering open access as an option and by shortening embargo periods. It is inevitable that all publishers will need to adjust existing economic models to one that is more in line with the principles of open access and the realities of internet access. All members of the scholarly community – authors, readers, publishers, librarians, and academic administrators – will need to collaborate to build the best models for scholarly publishing and access in the digital age.

Learn More: Economics - The Access Principle by John Willinsky (2006), Chapter 5


MYTH: Open Access and Public Access are the same thing.

Public Access is a requirement of funding agencies as a matter of federal law. The National Institutes of Health requires access to research that it has funded. The NIH policy allows for access immediately or within a maximum embargo period. Open Access, on the other hand, is a publishing policy that has been adopted by many journals.

Learn More: Alliance for Taxpayer Access to ResearchEconomic and Social Returns on Investment in Open Archiving Publicly Funded Research Outputs


MYTH: Only libraries benefit from Open Access because they are shifting the cost of subscriptions to the authors and funding bodies.

Library budgets are stressed, but librarians do not promote Open Access as a solution to a budget crisis. They promote Open Access as a new publication model that fosters increased access to research information and promotes new scholarship and discovery. Further, this increased access to information not only benefits persons in the United States but also persons in developing countries.

Learn More: Open Access Impact: A Briefing Paper for Researchers, Universities and Funders


Credits:
Open Access, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Busting OA Myths, UNC Health Sciences Library
Open Access Myths: Busted!, Boston College Libraries Newsletter, Spring 2011
Dispelling Myths about Open Access, Scholarly Publishing @ MIT Libraries

Open Access Explained

Source - Piled Higher and Deeper (PHD Comics)

Open Access Policies

Source - Coalition of Open Access Policies (COAPI)

Open Access 101