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Open Access FAQ

Information and resources addressing frequently asked questions on open access.

Issues in Open Access

Open Access is a complex subject, and several issues need to be considered when thinking about OA.

Open Access:

  • is free to readers, but not free to produce.  Who pays the costs?
  • requires the consent of the copyright holder.
  • allows the author to retain more rights.
  • increases access to information but is not the same as universal access.  Language and other barriers remain.
  • increases the reach and spread of scholarly information.
  • can create barriers to publication in cases of economic hardship for author-pays models.
  • makes it more difficult to distinguish vanity and predatory publishers.

Why Open Access?

Open Access and Scholarship

Open Access is completely compatible with peer-review and can be just as high-quality as traditionally published research.  In fact, making a work open access has been shown to increase its readership and therefore its impact. OA therefore promotes scholarship by allowing researchers access to more information, and allows access for researchers in non-traditional settings.  OA makes information available to teachers and students at all levels.

Open Access does not take away an author's rights, but often allows an author to retain more rights to his or her work.

Open Access and Publishing

Open Access is becoming a well-established publishing model.  It has been shown to be sustainable, and even profitable.  It is important to note that OA exists only with the permission of the copyright holder, and is therefore legal.  Many of the major publishers are offering at least some Gold-model OA options, often in hybrid models where the author can pay a fee to have the article made openly available.  Currently, OA options vary greatly by publisher and journal.  A list of publishers that offer fee-based OA is maintained by the SHERPA/RoMEO group at the University of Nottingham.

In the Green model, papers can be published traditionally.  There are several possibilities, depending on the publisher's consent.  The information may be made available to a closed group, such as a campus.  There may also be a delay, often one year, before the article becomes openly available.  Alternately, the publisher may allow the pre-print to be openly available, but not the published version.  A list of publishers allowing use of their material in repositories is available from SHERPA/RoMEO

Why Not?

Open Access and Scholarship

There is a lot of concern about how OA-published materials will be evaluated during the tenure process.  It is up to an individual institution how OA published materials will be counted towards tenure.   However, it is becoming more accepted and several OA journals are now considered prestigious.  Additionally, OA works tend to circulate more widely and to be cited more frequently.

Open Access and Publishing

Although some publishers are embracing OA, others are fighting it.  This means a commitment to OA can lead to fewer choices when publishing.

On the other hand, while the hybrid author-pays model allows OA publication in many prestigious and well-established journals, the model has been criticized for discrimination.  It is argued that the fees create barriers unfair to researchers outside of traditional academia.  There are also fears that the fees will inflate beyond what is reasonable.  Additionally, the existence of legitimate fee-based publication models makes it more difficult to recognize scams and predatory publishers.