Care needs to be taken when choosing to celebrate and use open access journals. Many are not really on the side of the angels. Predatory publishers describe themselves as ‘open access’, and in a sense they are: the author pays and the reader has free access to their work, just as in the open access gold model (see earlier blog posts). However predatory publishers’ journals do not have readership, quality control, status or value. I wouldn't describe 'legitimate' journals that only offer gold open access as on the angels' side either - their high publication fees exclude many authors and institutions.
So which open access journals and publishers should be celebrated and used?
The Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association aims to promote good practice in open access publishing and support the best publishers. Their members list is a good place to start looking. In 2003 the Open Society Foundations (funded by George Soros) gave financial backing to Lund University in Sweden to run a Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). DOAJ carefully vets open access journal publishers before listing them. It currently covers over 10,000 journals.
Another alternative is to stay with the big five publishers (often necessary for early-career academics who need to establish their credentials) but simultaneously to take every opportunity to make work accessible to everyone…..Without, of course, paying the big five’s exorbitant fees for ‘gold’ open access (immediate availability with no paywall).
The way to do this is to “archive” work – that is, to make it accessible to the public, but within the policies of the chosen journal. Archiving can be done on the author’s own website, a university repository (Lancaster University’s is here: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/) or on public servers such as www.academia.edu. Universities and their libraries are understandably very keen that academics use their repositories as much as possible, though my experience is that they make it very frustrating and time-consuming to do so.
There are various levels of archiving:
· Pre-print archiving: uploading the version of an article after it is submitted to the journal but before refereeing.
· Author’s post-print archiving: uploading the final .pdf version of the article, but not the published version in the journal.
· Publisher’s post-print archiving: uploading the published version of the article immediately after the journal publishes it.
· Green open access: publisher’s post-print archiving after a period of embargo. Sometimes one year, sometimes two or more.
Different journals have different policies on these options, and set different conditions in relation to them. Fortunately JISC has funded the RoMEO website, which is a searchable database of publishers' policies regarding the self- archiving of journal articles on the web and in open access repositories. It is a really good place to choose a journal on the basis of its access policies: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/ .
For example the journal Higher Education comes out reasonably well[i]. Although published by Springer, one of the oligopolistic big five, that journal allows every level of archiving listed above except publisher’s post-print archiving within the first year of publication. In other words Higher Education has a green open access policy with a one-year embargo and permits pre-print and author's post-print archiving.
Its entry on RoMEO is here: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/issn/0018-1560/.
Readers: please suggest specific publishers or journals that should be celebrated for their open access approach. I'll start off with a couple of suggestions:
- International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology
- Cogent Open Access. Though an arm of Taylor and Francis, Cogent publishes on an open access basis with a 'pay what you want' model for authors. It also nods at the work reviewers do by offering a discount to them. Its subject list is here. It's not ideal, but T&F deserve some credit for this small concession.
[i] It is ‘green’ on RoMEO’s four-colour scale of accessibility: green; blue; yellow; white. This is not be confused with ‘green open access’, which means the ability to archive the publisher’s post-print after an embargo period. RoMEO’S categorisation system is set out here: http://tinyurl.com/d49jb6g