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.




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