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Open Access

What is Open Access?

"Open-access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder." (Peter Suber, A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access)

Open Access initiatives take advantage of modern communications technology to make relevant and up-to-date scholarly information more accessible and affordable to the public worldwide. As a result, Open Access publications enjoy a wider audience. Studies in many fields show a correlation between Open Access publication and increase in citation-count ranging between 50% to 250%.

Open Access initiatives also acknowledge the public's right to access the findings of research that is paid for by their taxes. Many major publicly-funded granting agencies (for example the US National Institutes of Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the National Research Council) have adopted Open Access policies requiring that the results of funded research be made freely available in an Open Access repository.

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Open Access at Concordia

In April 2010, Concordia’s Senate passed a Resolution on Open Access (English PDF | French PDF) encouraging faculty and students to make their peer-reviewed research and creative output freely accessible by depositing it in Spectrum, Concordia's institutional repository, or another open access venue. Concordia is the first major university in Canada where faculty have given their overwhelming support to a concerted effort to make the full results of their research universally available in this way.

In September 2011, Concordia's Senate unanimously recommended that the university president sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities on behalf of the university, extending the University's commitment to making knowledge produced by its faculty and students universally accessible.

Concordia is a founding member of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI), a coalition of 22 North American universities and colleges with faculty Open Access policies, formed to share Open Access implementation strategies and advocate for Open Access institutions. Concordia is also a member of SPARC® (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to stimulate the emergence of new scholarly communication models that expand the dissemination of scholarly research and reduce financial pressures on libraries.

More information:

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Spectrum: Concordia's Research Repository

Spectrum is a web-based repository where Concordia faculty, research and students can upload their published work in order to make it more widely available over the internet. Authors may deposit copies of peer-reviewed research articles, conference papers, book chapters, images, PowerPoint presentations, or other materials that reflect research activity.

Depositing an article in Spectrum involves uploading the full text of the article, then adding basic citation information - a process that can take as little as 10 minutes. Each publication stored in Spectrum will have its own lasting web address. Spectrum is regularly crawled by Google and Google Scholar, so work will be findable via these search engines.

Authors depositing their work in Spectrum sign a license giving Concordia the non-exclusive right to make the submission accessible worldwide. Concordia University does not claim copyright over anything deposited in Spectrum. Research materials deposited in institutional repositories retain their original copyright: depending on the agreement with the original publisher, either the author or the publisher will retain the rights to an article. Authors can make use of the SHERPA/RoMEO website to determine whether they are permitted to deposit an article published in a particular journal.

More information:

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Concordia Open Access Author Fund

The Concordia Open Access Author Fund is a joint initiative of the Libraries and the Office of Research, with Strategic Funding provided by the Office of the President. The fund was established to support Concordia authors who have published a peer-reviewed journal article in an open access journal that charges author processing fees.

See more information about the fund and how to apply.

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Institutional Membership to Open Access Journals

Concordia University Libraries have purchased an institutional membership to BioMed Central, entitling all Concordia-affiliated authors publishing in BioMed Central and SpringerOpen journals to a 15% discount on the article-processing charge (APC)

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SPARC Canadian Author Addendum: Securing Authors' Rights

The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has developed a Canadian Author Addendum (available in English and French) to help authors secure the rights over the work they publish. Including the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum in a publication agreement enables authors to secure a more balanced agreement by retaining select rights, such as the rights to reproduce, reuse, and publicly present the articles they publish for non-commercial purposes.

For more context and instructions for using SPARC Canadian Author Addendum see Using the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum (available in English and French).

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Open Access and Scholarly Publishing

Open Access is a mechanism to promote the availability of peer-reviewed scholarly research. Authors who wish to make their work Open Access are free to publish in preferred journals as they normally would.

  • An author who publishes in a peer-reviewed subscription-based journal can make the article Open Access by depositing a copy of the post-print into an institutional repository such as Spectrum. Most journal publishers allow this. An Open Access repository is an additional venue for research articles, complementing rather than replacing current publishing practices.
  • If an author publishes in a peer-reviewed Open Access journal, the article will be available immediately on the web.

There are two kinds of Open Access scholarly publishing:

  • The majority of publishers follow the GREEN Road to Open Access: they allow the deposit of peer-reviewed research articles into an Open Access repository such as Spectrum. It costs nothing, except a few minutes of time.
  • Certain publishers (such as the Public Library of Science, also known as PLoS) follow the GOLD Road to Open Access: authors may pay a fee to publish an article in a peer-reviewed Open Access journal that makes content freely available to everyone.

More information can be found on the SHERPA/RoMEO web site.

Major publishers that allow the published PDF version to be deposited in an institutional repository include:

  • American Institute of Physics
  • American Mathematical Society
  • Berkeley Electronic Press
  • Duke University Press
  • University of California Press

Major publishers that allow the post-print (final, refereed manuscript) to be deposited in an institutional repository (sometimes with an embargo) include:

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (i.e. Science)
  • Elsevier
  • Institute of Physics
  • Nature Publishing Group
  • Oxford University Press
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Sage Publications
  • Springer-Verlag
  • Taylor & Francis
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Open Access and predatory publishers

Open Access Journals have become a popular and beneficial method of scholarly communication but this structure leaves room for publishers to implement unethical practices and take advantage of authors. These are known as predatory publishers.  They abuse the Open Access Gold Model in which the author pays for the publication of their article.

These publishers tend to campaign aggressively for academics to submit articles, charge authors high fees (often hidden at first) but do not offer sufficient quality control or thorough editorial process.  Many of them accept papers without an appropriate editorial board or peer review process, often including works with poor writing and low-quality content.

These sub-standard articles can reflect poorly upon high quality research papers that are displayed alongside them. They can also offer scholars incorrect or misleading information upon which they might build their research, weakening scholarly communication and research as a whole.

How to Recognize Predatory Publishing

It is easy for an author to be tempted by a predatory publisher because of the pressure to publish that researchers face and the accelerated pace of acceptance these journals offer. It is important for scholars to learn where it is safe to publish and which journals might be predatory.

Here are some of the most common indicators of predatory publishers:

  • A lack of transparency in publishing practices
  • A journal title or website that looks very similar to a reputable journal or publisher (known as a hijacked journal)
  • No information about the credentials of the editorial staff is given
  • Publishers accept papers on a very wide range of subjects (mega journals)
  • The location given has no relationship to the journal’s actual address
  • Poor copy-editing
  • “Cold-calls” from publishers requesting submissions from authors
  • A publisher promises an accelerated editorial process.

Here is a comprehensive list of signs of predatory publishing: http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/11/30/criteria-for-determining-predatory-open-access-publishers-2nd-edition/

Librarian Jeffrey Beall, who coined the term “predatory publisher”, has written extensively on the subject and what to avoid from a publisher. Beall also maintains a list of suspected predatory publishers and independent journals that authors may use for reference:



To identify a credible open access journal in your area you can start by searching. 

Certain directories can help you identify Open Access journals in your area of research. See our guide to identifying Open Access journals.

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Funding Agencies and Open Access

The following agencies support Open Access:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR):
    According to their Policy on Access to Research Outputs:

    All grants awarded January 1, 2008 and onward require grant recipients to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher's website (Option 1) or an online repository as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication (Option 2).
  • National Research Council's Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI):
    NRC has established a policy making it mandatory, starting in January 2009, for NRC institutes to deposit copies of all peer-reviewed, NRC-authored publications and technical reports in their institutional repository called the NRC Publications Archive (NPArC).

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC):
    SSHRC has created an Aid to Open-Access Research Journals programme where:

    Funds will be awarded to help defray the costs of publishing scholarly articles [in Open Access journals]. Grants are to be considered a contribution to the journal's operating costs for production and distribution. See more information about SSHRC and Open Access.

See Access to Research Results: Guiding Principles, a joint publication of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC.)

  • Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF):
    According to their Policy on Access to Research Outputs:

    As of October 1st, 2008, individuals and teams who receive funding from the Foundation for research and related activities are required to make every effort to ensure that the results of their research are published in open access journals (freely available online) or in an online repository of published papers, within six months after initial publication.
  • Fonds de la recherche en santé Québec (FRSQ):
    According to their Policy regarding open access to published research outputs:

    For new awards or grants issued as of January 2009, awardees or grant holders are encouraged to make all possible efforts to have their peer-reviewed publications posted on open-access Web sites at their earliest convenience, ideally no later than six months after publication or presentation. This can be achieved via the publisher's Web site (in the case of articles) or that of the organizer of the event (in the case of scientific conventions), or via online repositories.
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC):
    Open Access policy is in development.
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Further information about Open Access

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Finding Open Access content

Search Services that index Open Access content:
  • Google and Google Scholar - Google Scholar indexes open access articles, identifying them within a results list with a green arrow. While not all articles found on Google or Google Scholar include free full text, Google searches many open access repositories in addition to proprietary content.
  • BASE - Bielefeld Academic Search Engine indexes academically relevant web resources from over 2000 sources. It was created and developed by Bielefeld University Library.
  • Open Access Theses and Dissertations (OATD) - OATD is a discovery service intended to improve the ability to put researchers and scholars in touch with the valuable and unique Open Access content. OATD does not index or redistribute any document's full text.
  • DRIVER (Europe) - Digital Repositories Infrastructure Vision for European Research attempts to create a pan-European umbrella organization for digital repositories. Co-financed by the European Commission, DRIVER allows users to search repositories from across the European continent in 25 different languages.
  • Arrow (Australia) - Australian Research Repositories Online to the World indexes and searches over 260, 000 Australian research outputs, including: theses; preprints; post-prints; journal articles; book chapters; music recordings and pictures. ARROW indexes items based on metadata harvested from the institutional repositories by the National Library of Australia.
  • IDEAS/RePEc - Internet Documents in Economics Access Service (IDEAS) for Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) includes open access working papers, book chapters and software components. The service has been made possible through the collaborative effort of volunteers worldwide.
Open Access Repositories:
  • Spectrum: Concordia University Research Repository - Concordia University's open access institutional repository that centralizes access and preserves the research created at Concordia.
  • arXiv.org - An open access repository comprising of e-prints in physics and its related disciplines, such as mathematics, non-linear sciences, and computer science. arXiv is owned and maintained by Cornell University and partially funded by the National Science Foundation.
  • Cogprints - A repository comprised of self-archived works predominantly in the areas of the cognitive sciences, including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, biology, medicine, and anthropology. The archive resides and is maintained by the University of Southampton.
  • E-LIS - An international open access archive for preprints, postprints and other documents in the field of library and information science.
  • NDLTD - Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations is a collaborative project between universities worldwide, which disseminates and preserves electronic theses and dissertations.
  • HAL (France) - Hyper Article on Line is designed for authors to deposit their research, and thereby offer publicly available scholarly documents from all academic fields. The repository is run through CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique) in France. Registration is required to contribute to HAL.
  • PubMed Central - A free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
  • PubMed Central Canada - PMC Canada provides free access to a stable and permanent online digital archive of full-text, peer-reviewed, health and life sciences research publications. It builds on the content currently available in the U.S.-based PubMed Central through the submission of Canadian funded biomedical and health research.
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN): Repository for the social sciences and humanities
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page last updated on: Monday 5 December 2016
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