What is Open Access?
From the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC):
"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment."
Basically, under current publishing models, access to research is highly restricted. Only those willing to pay hefty fees (or those at an institution willing to pay hefty fees) can read the articles in most scientific journals. This leaves a whole lot of people out. The Open Access model makes peer reviewed articles available to read and share by anyone with an internet connection. Typically, publishers cover their cost by charging readers a whole lot of money. Open Access journals cover their costs by asking authors to pay a fee to be included. Many research institutions have designated funding to pay the fees on behalf of their researchers. You can also include it in a grant proposal. Then, the whole world can build upon and benefit from your research. This is the direction that scholarly communication is heading in.
Why should I care?
When information is freely available, everyone wins. Researchers get all of the information they need. Students can enjoy unrestricted access to necessary educational tools. Libraries do not have to make tough choices on which journals to subscribe to. Scientists in low or middle income countries can contribute competitive research. Taxpayers can see the research they subsidize. The ones writing the research articles get more citations and see higher use of their work. Party all around!
Also, you may be required to publicly share your research. The NIH already requires that research funded by their grants be made publicly available within a year of publication. On July 29th, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously passed FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act. Next it moves to the full Senate. FASTR requires all research funded by a federal agency with over $100 million in annual extramural research grants be made publicly available online. This includes the NSF, the CDC, the Department of Energy and many more.
What are the benefits?
Again, from SPARC
- Increases readers’ ability to find use relevant literature
- Increases the visibility, readership and impact of author’s works
- Creates new avenues for discovery in digital environment
- Enhances interdisciplinary research
- Accelerates the pace of research, discovery and innovation
- Contributes to core mission of advancing knowledge
- Democratizes access across all institutions – regardless of size or budget
- Provides previously unattainable access to community colleges, two-year colleges, K-12 and other schools
- Provides access to crucial STEM materials
- Increases competitiveness of academic institutions
- Enriches the quality of their education
- Ensures access to all that students need to know, rather what they (or their school) can afford
- Contributes to a better-educated workforce
What are some different avenues towards OA publishing?
Once you've decided that you want to make your work Open Access, there are many different ways of going about it. Here are just a few:
- Publish in a fully Open Access journal, such as PLOS
- Even if you are publishing in a traditional subscription journal, they sometimes let you make the preprint (the manuscript version of your article - how it looks before their formatting and pagination) available online for free, usually through an institutional repository (more info below)
- Some subscription journals also allow you pay a fee to make your particular article OA, even if the rest of the journal isn't. Any fees associated with Open Access publishing can be worked into a grant proposal.
But I need to publish my article in a peer-reviewed journal.
All reputable Open Access journals are peer reviewed and well respected. They are indexed in scientific databases. They are totally legitimate.
But I don't want to give up my copyright!
You won't! Open Access is based on the Creative Commons CC-BY license. That means that others may share, distribute and build upon your research, but they must cite you at all times. You still maintain copyright over your material.
How can the library help?
I know this can be really confusing. Even if you were already well read on the topic and knew all of this stuff, there are still tricky issues:
- How do I avoid predatory journals?
- If my research is being used and shared in new ways, how do I measure my impact factor?
- Will this effect my tenure application?
- What is the state of Open Access in my particular field?
- I'm totally on board, but what does the publishing process look like exactly?
- I still don't understand why this even matters.
Don't worry - we're here to help. You do not need to navigate this alone. Librarians can:
- Meet with faculty or students individually to find appropriate journals to publish in
- Bring you up to speed by sharing information with you in an in-person or virtual workshop
- Bring in guest speakers to lecture on specific OA issues
- Bring in publishers to give workshops on the publication process
- Explain how you can post your work to our institutional repository (Rowan Digital Works). When federal grants require you to make articles publicly available within a year of publication, putting them in the institutional repository meets that requirement.
- Tell you about the newest innovation in open access publishing: Altmetrics! Making your research publicly available online means that it will be used in lots of new and interesting ways. Altmetrics is a new way of quantifying all of your various citations, so people (i.e. tenure review board) understand your full impact. The library can recommend altmetrics tools you can use as an individual. We are also looking into tools to embed in the institutional repository. We can help you figure out how to best measure your impact and teach workshops on it.
I'm still confused.
This guide has another page with additional resources!
Important note: this guide was created by Shilpa Rele who is no longer with Rowan University Libraries. Please feel free to contact the current guide owner for help.