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Open Access Publishing

What is open access publishing?

Simply put, open access (OA) journals are freely available to readers on the internet and do not have subscription charges.

  • Open Access Overview, by Peter Suber, provides an introduction to OA for those new to the concept.
  • How Open Is It?, published by Public Library of Science (PLoS) and Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), outlines the core components of OA with the goal of helping authors make informed decisions on where to publish based on journal policies. Also on this page are multiple translations of a printable brochure.
  • Get More from Your Academic Research, published by CreateChange, suggests practical ways that OA can provide greater returns on your research.

Why is open access publishing important?

The goal of open access is to improve upon the traditional scholarly publishing system by making research more accessible. More and more governmental and private funding agencies are requiring open access to research they fund. The time is ripe for improvement because of the convergence of four factors:

  1. Funding Mandates

    In February 2013, the White House issued a new policy directive that all major federal agencies require articles and supporting data based on government funded research be made open access within one year of publication. Since 2013, the agencies have been working on new open access and open data compliance policies that are and will become mandatory in order to receive grant funding. See our Federal Open Access/Open Data Requirements for Research directory. In some cases, this crowd-sourced Google Sheet may be more current. The forerunner of these OA mandates was a strong National Institute of Health policy that went into effect in 2008 requiring open access to all journal articles based on research funded by NIH.
  2. Internet

    The internet offers the potential to maximize the visibility and impact of scholarly research.
  3. Copyright

    By protecting their copyrights, authors can increase access to their scholarship.
  4. Costs

    The cost and number of scholarly journals have escalated to the point where no single institution can afford to provide access to them all.

How can I identify open access journals in my field?

The number and quality of OA journals is growing. Here are some resources to help you identify OA journals that you may want to consider as publishing outlets:

UB Discounts on Article Processing Charges (APCs)

  • Microbiology Society publication discounts:
    • UB Libraries subscribes to the following Microbiology Society journals: Journal of General Virology, Journal of Medical Microbiology and Microbiology. All UB-affiliated authors receive a 15% discount on the journal APCs for these three journals. Authors must select the OpenMicrobiology option when submitting an article.
    • UB-affiliated authors receive a 50% discount on the journal APCs for JMM Case Reports. See the Microbiology Society APCs for these four journals.
  • SCOAP3 for researchers engaged in high-energy physics:
    • SCOAP3 is an international consortium of thousands of libraries, funding agencies and research centers that have established agreements with publishers in the high-energy physics field. These agreements subsidize the APCs for publishing in SCOAP3 journals. UB authors pay no APCs, retain copyright and have their articles published with immediate open access, thereby ensuring compliance with federal open access mandates.

How do I judge the quality of open access journals?

Many OA journals typically adhere to the same quality and peer review standards established by traditional journals. However, because many OA journals are new, it can be difficult to assess quality. Unfortunately, there also have been some start ups engaging in unethical practices including listing editorial board members without their permission and doing little, if any, peer review. If you have any questions about the reputation of a journal, please contact your departmental (subject specialist) librarian Here are a few resources that can help:

Publishing scholarly research is not without costs… how are those costs covered?

Open access publishers use a variety of methods to defray costs:

  • Volunteer efforts: many OA publishers rely on the efforts of the research community – networks of scholars who volunteer their time to help publish OA journals in their fields. Open Humanities Press Policies and Speleobiology Notes are two examples.
  • Author fees: other OA publishers charge APCs. These fees vary in cost and are often paid for using grant money or are paid by the author’s institution. PLOS Biology is an OA journal that relies on APCs.
  • Alternative revenue streams: many OA journals are free to read online but they charge for advertisements, memberships, print versions, conferences. The British Medical Journal is an OA journal that leverages a combination of these revenue streams.