Open Access De-Mystified - Part II

by Cheryl Truesdell

This is part two of a four-part series on Open Access. Open access seeks to provide scholarly literature online, free of charge, and free of most copyright restrictions. This month we look at Open Access journals.

Part II: OA Journals

Open Access provided through journal publishers is called Gold Open Access. The goal of Gold Open Access is to provide scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that are available to the reader online, free of charge, and free of legal barriers, such as copyright or license restrictions. There are categories of Gold Open Access depending upon the level of openness achieved by the journal:

  • Direct Open Access: the whole journal is published OA without limitation (estimated to account for 62% of Gold OA)
  • Delayed Open Access: the journal keeps the most recent content accessible only to paying subscribers, but makes content freely accessible after an established embargo period (estimated to account for 14% of Gold OA)
  • Hybrid Open Access: the author or author’s institution pays for an article to be made open access in an otherwise subscription-based journal (estimated to account for 24% of Gold OA) (Laakso M, et al. (2011) The Development of Open Access Journal Publishing from 1993 to 2009. PLoS ONE 6(6): doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020961)

Since 2000, OA journal publishing has increased significantly; by 2009 the share of articles in OA journals of all peer-reviewed journals reached 8%. (Suber, Peter. (2004) Open Access Overview. (last updated March 2012)

Before the World Wide Web, the best way to disseminate research was though print journals sold on subscription primarily to academic libraries. Costs for non-OA journal publishers include the costs of restricting access through subscription tracking, collecting fees, negotiating site licenses, authenticating uses, blocking access to non-users, creating and enforcing restrictive licenses, and marketing to maintain or increase subscriptions.

This closed access system meant that readership of scholarly articles was limited to institutions that could afford to subscribe to the journal or provided good interlibrary loan services.

The Internet made it possible and desirable to disseminate scholarship through low-cost models of production and distribution with the major online-only costs being copy-editing, online hosting, and maintenance of a system for high-quality peer review. OA publishers are able to keep costs low because they don’t have to pay to restrict access through subscription-based pricing.

While free to the user, OA journals are not cost-free to the publisher. There are still costs involved in publishing an online journal.

  • OA publishers fund OA journals in a number of ways:
  • Subsidy from a university, society or other agency
  • Funds from institutional or consortia members
  • Revenue from non-OA publications
  • Revenue from advertising, reprints, print or special editions 
  • Volunteerism
  • Publication fee for accepted articles, paid for by the author or the author’s research grant or employer
    • Most (70%) OA journals do not charge fees for accepted articles. If there is a charge, fees are often paid by the author’s employer or sponsor. A growing number of universities are earmarking funds to pay publication fees on behalf of faculty who choose to publish in fee-based OA journals.
    • By contrast, most (75%) subscription-based, non-OA journals charge author fees for accepted articles. (Suber, Peter. (2004) Open Access Overview. (last updated March 2012)

There are now more than 6,000 OA journals covering all subject areas and disciplines. An excellent source for identifying OA journals is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) which aims to be comprehensive and cover all OA scientific and scholarly journals that use a quality control system to guarantee content (peer-review).

Another way authors and publishers can provide open access to their scholarship is through OA repositories such as IPFW’s Opus.  More in the next issue of Helmke Highlights...