What early career researchers need to know about open access publishing?

17 06 2015

Oa 80x15 orange

I attended a workshop today about ‘how to get published in academic journals’. The attendees were mostly PhD students. I noticed how little early career researchers know about open access (OA) publishing. There are two types of OA –Gold OA and Green OA.

Gold OA refers to online journal articles which are either totally or to some extent made freely accessible to the public by the publishers. Gold OA can be divided into three categories: Direct OA, Delayed OA and Hybrid OA (Björk et al. 2010). Direct OA refers to journals that are published immediately as open access. Delayed OA journals make articles freely available after a delay of certain embargo period. Hybrid OA gives authors the choice to pay for their articles to be made freely accessible within an otherwise subscription-based journal. Most Gold OA requires author fee which is called Article Processing Charge (APC). Major publishers such as Springer and Elsevier adopted the APC-funded model since 2004 and 2006, respectively. Authors can choose to pay for approximately USD 3,000 to allow their articles to be open access published in an otherwise subscription-based journal.

Green OA refers to the self-archiving of an author’s work. These open access articles are supplied by the authors on a web site that is freely available without publisher mediation. An author may deposit their articles in institutional repositories, subject-based repositories or their own websites.

From April 2013, RCUK’s Open Access policy arranged to pay block grants to universities and other institutions for setting up publication funds for APC if RCUK funded researchers choose to publish in Gold OA journals. However, as many PhD students and early career researchers are not funded by RCUK, Green OA might be the way to go. But which repositories should you choose and which version of articles can you deposit online?

I’ve checked a few journals’ OA policies recently as I was looking into publishing from my PhD work. The SHERPA/RoMEO database is a good place to look into if you are checking for quite a number of journals. The database would tell you whether one specific journal supports Green OA and which version of publication (pre-print, post-print or publisher’s version) you are allowed to self-archive. But they don’t provide very detailed information about whether there is an embargo period. For example, I searched for Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. SHERPA/RoMEO database says that the journal supports self-archiving post-print which is the accepted version after peer review and revision. However, on the journal’s website, it says the self-archiving of accepted version is subject to an embargo period of 24 months for Social Science and Humanities and 12 months for scientific, technical and medical journals.

Another thing is that publishers have various restrictions on repositories. For example, I searched for 3 Information Science journals published by Sage, Wiley and Springer. Sage has no embargo period for the accepted version as long as the articles are deposited in the authors’ institutional repositories or authors’ own websites, but not subject repositories (which is limited to 12 months embargo). Wiley allows authors to self-archive accepted version in their personal websites, institutional repositories or not for profit subject-based repositories after the embargo period. Springer allows self-archiving of accepted version in any repository after 12 months embargo period.

In July 2014, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) introduced an open access policy which applies to research outputs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 in relation to the research assessments after the 2014 REF. In the workshop today, Meredith Carroll from Manchester University Press mentioned that academics often mistakenly thought that their whole article had to be made Gold or Green OA within 3 months after acceptance by a journal in order to comply with the next REF. As many journals have the embargo restriction of at least 12 months before allowing self-archiving accepted version, academics could have the dilemma of whether to self-archive the pre-print (submitted version before peer review) or break the rules. Meredith said that she called people in the HEFCE and they said that academics are supposed to create a record with title, abstract and journal’s name in their institutional repositories, but not required to upload the full articles.

To conclude, if you are to continue your career in academia, institutional repositories are the best choice for Green OA publishing. Open access repositories, such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate, may have been quite popular with some academics to deposit their paper. However, they are NOT institutional repositories and may not be in the ‘welcome’ list of some publishers for Green OA. It was reported that Elsevier sent thousands of takedown requests to Academia.edu users who self-archived their research articles which were published by Elsevier’s journals (Howard 2013).

It seems that you can’t self-archive the publisher’s version of the article anywhere. For your published articles to be freely accessible online, you must pay the USD 3,000 APC! Oh dear!

Björk, B. C. (2012). The hybrid model for open access publication of scholarly articles: A failed experiment? Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(8), 1496-1504.
Howard, J. (2013). Posting your latest article? You might have to take it down The Chronicle of Higher Education, 6 December 2013.


Can early career researchers use social media to benefit their career?

12 06 2015

My PhD journal has come to an end as I submitted the revision of my thesis this week. Exciting! I also published my first peer reviewed journal article last week– Use of blogs, Twitter and Facebook by UK PhD students for scholarly communication at Observatorio (OBS*) Journal.

The journal paper described how participants in my study used social media tools to benefit their research work and build up professional profiles. It also discussed challenges and difficulties they may face. Strategies to maximise their practice were also suggested — to link different social media tools together for cross-platform promotion, to create a personal learning network (PLN), and to build a professional online profile. A blog post with more detailed discussion was written for the Higher Education Development Association, University of Oslo– How PhD students use social media to help their research development.

To reflect on my own PhD journey, social media has certainly helped me getting recognised and getting my work out there. I was approached for presenting at academic workshops and conferences because I blogged about the work I had done on open science and social media. I was also contacted by various journalists, consultants, startup companies and universities in the United States to give comments on Chinese social media because they read my blog posts.

I have met PhD students and early career researchers who told me that they started using Twitter because they met me and what I had told them, and more importantly they found Twitter helpful. I hope more early career researchers can use social media to benefit their research development one way or the other. It might not be for everyone. The time and effort that one needs to invest on using a new media tool can be tremendous and overwhelming. Moreover, it might be more comfortable to hide behind a desk and computer screen than being out there presenting ideas and work that are still at a very early stage. As early career researchers, we need that confidence to believe that our work is good enough to let the world see it. How long will it take to turn our research into a journal paper? It might take a few years. If you could build your professional profile through disseminating research ideas on social media, why not do it?

early career researcher

In a conference paper ‘Seeking and sharing research information on social media: A 2013 survey of scholarly communication’, I talked about academics actively contributing research updates on social media and passively gathering information using new media tools. If you don’t have the confidence or don’t feel like sharing your ideas because of various concerns, you could still use social media to search for and gather useful information. For example, more and more universities and colleges are setting up YouTube channels to distribute educational content, such as lecturers and training sessions. Wikipedia, blogs and other websites has been frequently cited in academic articles. Some academics may feel guilty of only taking and not giving. One respondent from my study commented, ‘Oh dear, I benefit but don’t contribute. Oops.’ However, passive audience are not free-riders because their presence are much needed to motivate contributors to keep writing blogs, keep re-tweeting useful information, keep contributing to wikis and so on. Moreover, audience can give feedback and comments to help contributors improve the quality of their work.

The last important point is that social media can help connect us lone researchers, build up our social capital and improve our sense of belongings. Social media is ‘social’, after all. You can’t have a drink together in the pub if you are in two difference cities or even countries, but you can message each other easily through Twitter, or simply join the conversation of #phdchat and other hashtag communities out there in your area.

So the answer to the title question is that yes, early career researchers can use social media to benefit their career. Researchers at any career stage can adopt Twitter, Academia.edu, Research.Gate, Linked.In, blogs and other tools out there for various reasons and to various degrees in their research work. You may be active participating or passive viewing, as long as you find the time and it benefits you!