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Open Access Publishing

What is Open Access Publishing?

"Open Access" refers to practice of making scholarly work openly available, without financial barriers to access. 

In general, there are two ways of making work openly available: 

  • Working with an open-access (or hybrid) publisher to make work openly available directly from the publisher's website (sometimes called "gold," "diamond," or "platinum" open access)
  • Self-archiving your work in a subject or institutional repository, or on your website (sometimes called "green" open access)

Each method has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Publisher-enabled open access allows access to the published version of the work without an embargo, but may limit your options when it comes to finding a publisher.
  • Self-archiving is compatible with most journals and many book publishers, but access may be delayed, and publishers often have rules about which versions of a work may be shared.

This guide will focus primarily on making work available by working with a publisher; for more information about self-archiving, please see our guides on author's rights and institutional (and other) repositories.

Open access publishing is not a single publishing model; publishers have many different business models to make work openly available.

Definitions of Open Access & Additional Information

Advantages of Open Access Publishing

Open Access journals exist in every field and publish a lot of important work.  Open access books, too, are becoming more common.

Many journals that are not fully open access still have the option for authors to make specific articles openly available, usually by paying a fee.  These are called "hybrid" journals and will be explained below.

In addition to the general advantages of open access, working with an open access publisher has some advantages:

  • OA publishers will make your work available immediately upon publication
  • When publishing open access, you can share the final version of your work rather than relying upon the accepted manuscript
  • If your work is grant-funded, publishers often have procedures to ensure that you are meeting the terms of the grant, which may include a requirement to make your work (or your data!) public
  • In many cases, open access publishers will support making your work available elsewhere as well

However, there are also some disadvantages:

  • You might already have a publisher in mind
  • While many OA publishers do NOT charge authors fees to make their work openly available, there are some who do.

Remember, even if you use a toll-access publisher, you can usually still make some version of your work openly available via self-archiving.

Finding Open Access Publishers

More and more publishers are going open access! If you are interested in open access publishing, here's how to find a publisher:

The links above are some good places to start. 

You might also want to check out the policies of publishers in your field. Some fields have well-known open access journals. For instance, in biology, PLoS is a major open-access publisher.

Check out the publications of your professional associations; those are sometimes open access as well. 

If you'd like more help identifying open-access publishers, please contact me!

"Hybrid" Journals

Many commercial publishers have begun offering what they call "Open Choice" or "Open Select" -- that is, the option for authors to pay to make their articles openly available in an otherwise toll-access journal.

However, this approach is not recommended as a way of making your article openly available.

On an individual level:

Taking a broader view:

  • Rather than reducing the cost of scholarly research, this increases it; libraries still need to pay to subscribe to the journal, while authors, institutions, or grants are additionally paying the page charges.

Please consider self-archiving or publishing in a fully open-access journal rather than paying to make a single article in a toll-access journal available.

Open Access Business Models

Publishing is expensive. How do open access publishers fund their operations?  There are a variety of models, including:

Author Fees

This model is commonly associated with open publishing in general. In fact, the majority of open access journals do not charge author processing fees, but many journals do use this strategy.  This money may come from the grant under which the research was done, so if you are working in a subject area in which this is common practice, you should consider writing these fees into your grant. Alternatively, authors' institutions sometimes pay the fees.

Scholarly Societies

Scholarly societies may publish open access journals, covering the cost with their membership fees. In librarianship, College & Research Libraries is a good example.

Institutional Subsidies

Books and journals published by university presses may be subsidized by their host institutions. 

Membership Models

There are a variety of models here, but they involve support from a group of institutions to make materials openly available.

Other Models

New models continue to be developed, so stay tuned!