Open Access FAQs
- What is Open Access?
- What are the different approaches to Open Access?
- How did the Open Access movement begin?
- Since information in self-archived repositories is not necessarily peer-reviewed, isn’t the content potentially of lower quality than what is found in traditional journals?
- How do costs compare in different publishing models?
- Are there funds that help authors pay for the expense of publishing in OA journals?
- What is the Impact Factor of OA journals and what are "altmetrics"?
- What is the effect of the OA movement on access to scholarly information worldwide?
- Are there government mandates for Open Access in the U.S.?
- How is the Health Sciences Library involved in the Open Access movement?
- Who benefits from Open Access?
- What additional resources are available to me?
Under Open Access, literature “… is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Peter Suber, Senior Researcher for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC). It contrasts with the most prevalent and traditional method of scholarly communication in which publishers obtain copyright from authors and disseminate research literature for a fee to subscribers.
Generally speaking there are three:
1. Self-archiving involves the direct deposit of scholarly works into an open repository often defined by subject (sometimes called a central repository – PubMed Central is one example) or by institution (an institutional repository or IR). It is not a publishing method and its express purpose is to make information as accessible as possible. Self-archived works may be published, to-be-published (pre- and post-prints), or unpublished (many theses and conference papers). Besides text, content may contain data or be multimedia in format. This route to OA is known as the GREEN Road.
2. OA journals publish scholarly information and give full text access for free. There are a growing number of these journals including those associated with the Public Library of Science (PLoS) and BioMed Central. In the traditional system of scholarly communication, the publisher subsidizes the costs of journal production and distribution through individual and institutional (primarily library) subscribers, i.e., the “readers.” OA journal publishers on the other hand, have different business models, only one of which is the “author-pay” approach in which the authors not the readers fund the costs of publishing articles online. Unlike works in an IR, research articles in these OA publications are largely peer-reviewed, some very selective of their content. This route is called the GOLD Road.
3. Increasingly OA proponents identify a third model, the Hybrid OA model. Here publishers offer authors the option of open access of their works for a fee. For example, under Springer’s Open Choice program for a $3000 fee, authors can retain copyright and freely distribute their published works.
Many events came together to focus attention on the need to increase access to information and importantly to make OA a practical possibility. You can view the details on the timeline of the open access movement but a few of the early highlights include:
- extraordinary increases in journal subscription fees (see Graph 6) that caused many academic libraries in the 1980’s and the 1990’s to cancel subscriptions, sometimes in wholesale manner;
- the introduction of electronic information including the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the early 1990’s;
- one of the first self-archiving repositories, arXiv launching in 1991;
- several journals going “open access” (before the term was coined) in the 1990’s including the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 1996 allowing readers to view online full text articles back to volume 1, 1924;
- university provosts attending the Cal Tech Conference on Scholarly Communication in 1997 calling for a mandate for access to scholarly information.
Since informaiton in self-archived repositories is not necessarily peer-reviewed, isn't the content potentially of lower quality than what is found in traditional journals?
Each repository develops its own policies on who may submit and what can be submitted. Some have strict guidelines and membership requirements others are more open. For example arXiv, the mathematics and physics central repository, is very open, accepting primarily pre- and post-prints. To ensure a minimal level of quality however, it utilizes a system of moderators who can reject items based on inappropriate subject matter, inappropriate format of the submission, duplicated content, or submission of copyright protected material. However, experience from other high energy physics repositories is that most content in fact has been subjected to internal review prior to submission to arXiv or an alternative repository. Many deposited articles in fact go on to be formally submitted for publication.
According to a study conducted for the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the UK, Houghton and co-authors in their January 2009 report compare the economics of different publishing/archiving models. They estimate expenditures per article in the UK for publishing, production and dissemination of e-only (online only, no print version) access to be as follows: toll or subscription access £8,296 (about $13,800), open access £7,483 (about $12,500), and self-archiving £7,115 (about $11,800).
The Health Sciences Library piloted the OA Fund program in the Spring of 2013. Another round will be offered soon.
Some OA journals will waive the author fee. SpringerOpen routinely waives the author processing charge for authors from nations with "lower-income" or "lower-middle income" economies.
One metric that is frequently used to understand the degree to which articles of a journal are noticed is the “impact factor” or IF. Journal Citation Reports (JCR) calculates the IF for many science and social science journals giving authors, readers, and publishers a rough estimate of the visibility of a journal. The JCR database includes many OA journals some that have surprisingly high IF’s given their very short publication history. For example, PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine, both no more than 10 years old, ranked number 1 (out of 86 journals) and number 5(out of 153) in their respective JCR categories of Biology, and General/Internal Medicine. Several studies have also shown that free online articles increase citation rates (see for example, Lawrence, 2001 or Eysenbach 2006).
Another class of research metrics known as "altmetrics" (alternative metrics) takes into account the rate at which articles are downloaded, mentioned or archived in various social media. The effect of information dissemination via websites such as Mendeley, CiteULike, and Twitter as well as many blogs is almost immediate providing seemingly real-time measures of the influence of an article.
In a study published in Science in February 2010, authors Evans and Reimer determined that people tended to cite OA journals more than non-OA journals by about 8%. But more striking was the difference in citation rate among poor nations (defined by gross national income) where the researchers in these countries cited OA journals as much as 20-25% more frequently.
Currently there are several proposed or active federal mandates in the U.S. There are also various state proposed policies. Listed below are the federal laws and bills.
- The NIH Public Access Policy Act was signed by former President George W. Bush into law in December 2007. It mandates all recipients of NIH funding to deposit into PubMed Central , an open online repository, all publications upon acceptance resulting from the funded project. After a 12 month embargo period following publication, articles are to become openly accessible.
- The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued an open access directive in February 2013. The OSTP directive requires federal agencies with $100 million of extramural research and developement expenditures to devise a plan for their grant recipients to deposit publications as well as scientific data resulting in a publicly accessible respository. In June 2013, the Association of Research Libraries in partnership with several higher education associations, unveiled its strategy for complying with the OSTP mandate. Known as Shared Access Research Ecosystem or Share, it calls for the use of digital repositories of academic institutions already in place to become the recipeints of publications and data.
- Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) bill was introduced in Congress in February 2013 (HR 708, S 350). Similar to the OSTP directive, it requires researchers with funding from federal agencies with extramural budgets exceeding $100 million to deposit their publications into publicly accessible repositories within 6 months.
- The bill for the Public Access to Public Science Act (PAPS) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2013. It requires public access to research publications immediately after the publisher's embargo period. Unlike the OSTP directive and FASTR, the agencies covered by PAPS includes only the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Weather Service.
The library is a partner in the Digital Collections of Colorado, an openly accessible digital repository where authors can deposit their manuscripts or other works. For more information about the repository, please go to its resource guide.
- the authors of scholarly works who, under the OA model, will have greater control over their intellectual property rights;
- the research community which will see partnerships grow because information is easily shared;
- the patient who can access research information that directly addresses his or her personal health concern;
- the taxpayer who helps fund research through public grants.
See also SPARC's comments on the benefits of institutional repositories.
- Alliance for Taxpayer Access . Directed by SPARC (see below), the Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a "colation of patient groups, physicians, researchers, educational institutions, publishers and health promotion organizations that support barrier-free acccess to taxpayer-funded research."
- Altmetrics: A Manifesto Primer on altmetrics.
- Budapest Open Access Initiative A statement crafted by a group of Open Access advoacates who met in Budapest, Hungary in 2001 to "accelerate progress in the international effort to make research articles in all academic fields freely available on the internet."
- DOAJ, Directory of Open Access Journals
- Journal Cost-Effectiveness 2009 Beta. A search engine that provides measures to assess cost -effectivness of journals by article or by citation.
- NIH Public Access Policy Mandate and Author Rights . The Health Sciences Library's webpage detailing the NIH Mandate
- OpenDOAR. Directory of Open Access Repositories
- ROAR. Registry of Open Access Repositories - monitors growth in eprint archives and maintains a list of GNU Eprints (one software used for management of open repositories)
- Repository Maps . Maps open repositories worldwide
- Scholarly Publishing Round Table. American Association of Universities
- Science Commons. An organization whose goal is to provide free access to knowledge and schoalrship in the sciences.
- Sherpa/Romeo . Useful database that provides details on access, permissions, among other open access information for many journals
- SPARC . Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources - part of the Association of Research Libraries and a leading organization in the Open Access movement. Check in particular these pages:
For more information about Open Access, contact Lilian Hoffecker email@example.com, 303-724-2124. This page was last updated September of 2013.