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What is Open Access Publishing?

Open Access (OA) publishing refers to the practice of making scholarly articles freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Unlike traditional publishing, where access to research is often restricted by paywalls, OA ensures that research outputs are accessible to a wide audience, including researchers, educators, policymakers, and the general public. OA publications are published with an Open licence such as Creative Commons making sure attribution occurs and explaining how content can be used by others.

Why is Open Access Important?

There are many reasons to engage in Open Access but highlights are:

  1. Increased Visibility: OA articles are available to a global audience, resulting in greater visibility and, often, higher citation rates (18% according to this large scale study).
  2. Accelerates Scientific Progress: Free access to research findings allows for quicker dissemination and uptake of knowledge, speeding up the pace of scientific discovery and fostering collaboration and innovation.
  3. Democratic Access to Knowledge: OA ensures that crucial information is available freely to those who need it anywhere in the world, regardless of their ability to pay for subscriptions.
  4. Funder Compliance: Many funding agencies now mandate that the research they support be made openly accessible.

Do research funders expect grant holders to publish Open Access?

Research funders are increasingly adopting Open Access policies to promote the broad dissemination of research outputs. They view OA as a critical step towards maximizing the impact of the research they fund, fostering scientific collaboration, and accelerating innovation. By removing access barriers, OA ensures that research findings can be read and built upon by scientists, practitioners, policymakers, and even the general public, thus amplifying the societal and economic benefits of publicly-funded research.

Funders often have explicit OA mandates that researchers are required to comply with as a condition of their grants. These policies generally stipulate that research outputs, such as articles and sometimes data, must be deposited in an Open Access repository or published Open Access via a journal. Examples of funders with OA mandates are SFI, Horizon, HRB or the Wellcome Trust.

Quality Concerns

A prevalent misconception is that OA journals are inherently of lower quality compared to traditional subscription-based journals. This scepticism is sometimes fuelled by the belief that the absence of subscription fees means less rigorous editorial and peer-review processes. In reality, many OA journals maintain stringent quality standards, use rigorous peer-review methods, and have high impact factors. Just to name a couple of examples, publications like PLOS ONE and "Nature Communications" are OA journals that are highly respected in the academic community.

Open Access can also be achieved by publishing in well-established subscription journals, by paying for your article to be Open on the publisher’s website.

Predatory Journals

The term "predatory journal" is often associated with Open Access publishing, contributing to its mixed reputation. Predatory journals charge authors to publish but don't offer robust peer review, thereby compromising scientific integrity. It's crucial to differentiate these from reputable OA journals. Predatory practices are a problem, but they don't define the OA model. It's worth noting that bad actors can exist in both subscription-based and open access models. Of course, all the journals covered by our Open Access agreements are trustworthy, other ways of finding vetted journals is Scopus or the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

The cost of Open Access publishing

Another misconception is the belief that OA is always more expensive for authors due to Article Processing Charges (APCs). While it's true that many Gold OA models include APCs, there are also various funding mechanisms and institutional agreements—like the Open Access agreements at our university—that can cover these costs. Many Diamond OA journals do not charge either authors or readers. Additionally, Green OA via the University of Galway Research Repository provides a free avenue for authors to make their work openly accessible by self-archiving in institutional repositories.

Open Access and academic impact

The perception that Open Access (OA) journals inherently have lower impact factors compared to subscription-based journals is a common but not entirely accurate belief. The relationship between Open Access and impact factor is nuanced and can vary significantly across disciplines, publishers, and individual journals (in similar fashion to subscription journals). Also, increasingly, we see researchers, funders and policymakers alike moving towards a broader understanding of impact rather than just relying on the controversial impact factor.

Open Access citation advantage

Many studies suggest that OA articles are cited more frequently than those behind paywalls, potentially increasing the impact of your research publication. For instance, a large scale study from 2018, showed that “OA articles receive 18% more citations than average”.

Addressing Quality Concerns

  1. Due Diligence: Authors should conduct thorough research into a journal's reputation, editorial board, and peer-review process before submitting their work. Please consult our OA agreements, advice on predatory publishing
  2. Consult University of Galway Resources: Many universities, like ours, have libraries that offer guidance on choosing reputable OA journals. You can always ask your librarian for help or advice.
  3. Utilise Tools: Use resources like the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) or the Think. Check. Submit. checklist to evaluate a journal’s credibility. Also, all journals covered by our Open Access agreements are by trustworthy publishers.