Open access for students, scholarship and publishing

International Open Access Week is coming on October 19-25, 2015. You may have heard this term “Open Access” before but what does it really mean? Why should this matter to you? This 3-minute video quickly clarifies open access:

Open Access 101

Open Access 101

Open access for your students

Open access is an important movement that seeks to ensure access to the scholarly literature your students need for their studies. They may use Google and run into paywalls or they may search library databases and come up empty because we can’t subscribe to the resource they need.

Libraries are working to close this gap locally and internationally. Locally, we communicate with you to make the best purchases we can from the affordable scholarly literature and making that as accessible as possible for your students through reference, instruction and technological services. Internationally, libraries like the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed, provide open access to scientific literature for the whole world including this 16 year old researcher who found a new way to treat cancer. Even though he didn’t know it at the time and initially credited Google for his findings, he realized through his conversation with Director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, the NIH’s Library and movements like Open Access enabled his discovery.

Open access for your research

As the video references, you, as scholars and researchers, run into the same barriers as students do with paywalls and lack of access to scholarly literature. There are certainly effective ways to deal with this through interlibrary loan, colleague relationships at other institutions,  but even these are limited. Even universities and libraries with the largest budgets, like Harvard, cannot afford to purchase access to all the journals their community needs.

There are two major versions of open access that address these problems.

  • Repositories Based on Institution or Discipline (Open Access Green)

This kind of open access is based in an institution like Harvard’s, the University of Minnesota’s, George Fox’s, or at Bethel.

There is also a model of open access based on discipline like the one for physics and other natural sciences,, and the Social Science Research Network.

  • Peer-Reveiwed Journals  (Open Access Gold)

These journals are classified as “gold” because they meet the criteria of being peer-reviewed, freely accessible, available online, and able to be used in further research without restriction. The Directory of Open Access Journals is a stringently-vetted collection of scholarly open access journals organized by language and discipline.

Open access for your publishing

Where can I publish my work?

Once you’ve decided to publish your work you evaluate your options and select a publication that best fits the content of your work and promotion goals. With open access journals, this process remains the same but with particular resources to can help you navigate open access publications. The Directory of Open Access Journals is a great place to start.

Don’t people have to pay to publish?

In the majority of cases the answer is “no.” Some open access journals do charge fees, but the frequency and amount charged varies by discipline. In a 2013 study of 9,000 open access journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals, only 28% charged author fees. The natural sciences like chemistry (43%), physics (48%),  and genetics (77%) are more likely to charge a fee than disciplines like philosophy, history, or literature (all 3%).

Aren’t there concerns about quality or ethical business practices?

Beall’s List of open access publishers attempts to evaluate and identify open access journals and publishers that are “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers.” This list can be helpful but is also a subject to criticism over the criteria, which is publicly available, or the process of appeals to be removed from the list.

What if I do have to pay an author fee?

Sometimes this option can be written into a grant or larger institutions provide a budget to pay these fees. Unfortunately, at Bethel’s size and scale we don’t have that option. However, the Faculty Development or Faculty-Alumni Grants could be one way to get funding to cover these fees.

Further Resources

Hopefully, this post has clarified some of your questions about open access and has opened up some new options or opportunities for you. If you want to know more you can consult me, the Library guide on open access, or a post from this blog last year about a publishing opportunity in Open Access for the Humanities.

Kent Gerber
Kent curates scholarship, teaching, and history resources in the Bethel University Digital Library ensuring their availability and longevity. His other areas of expertise include scholarly communication and digital scholarship which involve publishing new and traditional kinds of scholarship and changing methods of access and distribution.

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