What is Open Access?

  • Open Access (OA) literature is freely available, peer-reviewed, online scholarly literature which is free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
  • This means it can be freely accessed by anyone in the world, with the potential readership of OA articles being far greater than that for material where the full-text is restricted to subscribers.
  • OA does not affect peer-review - OA repositories supplement and do not replace journals.
  • The legal basis for OA is either the consent of the copyright holder or the public domain, usually the former.
  • Further definitions of OA can be obtained from the Useful Links section. The Budapest Open Access initiative provides a useful definition of OA.

What Open Access isn't - Myths about Open Access

1. Open Access Journals are Not Peer-reviewed

Not true. The economic model and access policy which a journal or publisher follows does not determine its peer review policy. The large majority of academic journals, whether open access or subscription-based, are peer-reviewed. Similarly, there are both open-access and subscription journals/magazines that are not peer-reviewed.
Most major subscription publishers now have an open access option for individual submissions but this does not alter the editorial procedures for each paper submitted. A good explanation of hybrid journals can be found on the MIT libraries website.

2. Open Access Papers are Not Subject to Copyright

Not true. Choosing to publish through an open access route does not mean that the article is not copyrighted; the same options exist. Open access journals may be more likely to offer the author/author’s institution the option to retain their own copyright on published papers and associated data, as well as the moral rights which are always retained, which puts more of an onus on the author for checking that copyright limits and permissions have not been broken, but in either case, the article is still copyrighted, either by you or the publisher. A useful summary can be found on the Eifl website.

3. Open Access Journals are Totally Free

Not true. Open Access articles aim to be always free to the reader, regardless of their means or location, but they do not assume that the processes of peer review, editing, collation and dissemination can be carried out without cost. All journal publications attract these costs, but open access publishers attempt to devolve these costs through alternative business models to subscription. Common models include obtaining revenue through levying Article Processing Charges (APCs) to submitting authors, defraying costs through charging for advertising space, central government or commercial sponsorship, and charging for access to associated review and opinion papers. A good summary can be found in Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview (Paragraph 6).

4. Open Access Journals have Lower Impact Factors (IFs)

Not true. There are high impact factor open access journals across all subjects, with the impact measurements for many OA journals growing as they become more established. (e.g. PLOS One). Listings of OA titles can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals and then reviewed in either the InCites Journal Citation Reports database or the Eigenfactor database.

The evidence is somewhat to the contrary, in that open access articles, whether gold or green, tend to gather citations more quickly in the first few years after publication. A range of studies on this affect can be found on the OpCit Project website.

5. The Vast Majority of Research is Already Openly Available

Not true. While worldwide internet accessibility has greatly expanded the availability of preprints, postprints and final articles, many authors are still constrained by embargoes and publisher policies from making all their research available. The situation is improving, however, with a recent study by Bergstrom indicating that 73% of very recent economics articles published over 25 journals had a free version accessible through a Google search. While there are important and long-running projects to make academic research freely available to developing countries (HINARI – medicine and AGORA - agriculture), participation by publisher varies and not all countries are covered.

6. Depositing my Research Papers in ResearchGate, Mendeley, Academia.edu or other Commercial Repositories is Sufficient to Meet the Open Access Requirements of the HEFCs for REF2020 and RCUK

Not true.  Commercial repositories such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Mendeley do not record the specific metadata which the HEFCs require for Open Access recording such as acceptance date, publication date and the lengths of any embargo enforced by the publishers.  Such social sites will also not allow the forms of data harvesting and aggregation which RCUK and the HEFCs require to collect and amalgamate publication details to enhance public access.  Additionally, the commercial nature of the servers which host these sites means that their terms of use could change at any point or that the the sites scould simply disappear.  For all these reasons, please make sure you deposit all of your research papers on the Aberystwyth University PURE system as the first priority in making papers open access.

7.  Depositing my Gold Open Access Papers in the AU's PURE/CADAIR Repository will Split the Citation and Download Counts for My Articles on the Publisher's Website

Not true.  As Gold open access papers for which APCs have been paid are always cited using the Gold OA journal name rather than the repository name, and as PURE/CADAIR will always give the full journal citation details with a direct link to the final publisher's OA version of the paper near the top of the record, the proportion of downloading of Gold OA papers from the PURE/CADAIR repository site compared to that from the publisher's website is likely to be very small, and the proportion of citations to Gold OA papers referring only to the repository is likely to be miniscule.  Readers would also need to know the correct repository in which they can find the Gold OA paper they require in advance of starting their search. Taking both of these factors into account, the deposit of Gold OA papers into PURE/CADAIR should not affect either the citation or download statistics from the publisher's website to any significant extent.