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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.

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 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 can do so by following one of two paths:

  • GREEN Road: Authors can publish in any journal they choose and then deposit a version of their work in a repository, such as Spectrum. Most publishers allow authors to self-archive a version of their work in a repository (typically not the publisher's PDF), however, some publishers impose an embargo period. The Sherpa/Romeo database can be used to verify a journal's self-archiving policy.
  • GOLD Road: Authors can publish in a fully Open Access journal or in a subscription journal that has an Open Access option (for a fee).
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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.

  • The publisher sends you an un-solicited invitation to submit an article for publication
  • A journal title or website that looks very similar to a reputable journal or publisher (known as a hijacked journal)
  • The location given has no relationship to the journal’s actual address
  • No information about the credentials of the editorial staff is given
  • Publishers accept papers on a very wide range of subjects (mega journals)
  • A publisher promises an accelerated editorial process.
  • Minimal (or non-existent) peer review process and copy-editing
How to avoid predatory publishers
Find out more
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Further information about Open Access

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page last updated on: Friday 29 September 2017
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