Before we move into some of the misconceptions about Open Access, we want to start out with a statement about what Open Access is, and provide some very basic definitions that will help us talk about various aspects of OA throughout the rest of this talk.
Peter Suber, a leading voice in the Open Access movement and who is at Harvard University, defines it this way: Open Access literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
There are three key components to this definition – First, technology. Internet technology and the radically new methods of content creation and distribution that it makes possible are at the heart of this movement towards open access. Methods of publication that were efficient and sensible in a world where print publication was king don’t necessarily make any sense in the Internet age, but many of our scholarly publishing models still follow those antiquated practices.
The second component is money. Open Access scholarly literature is free to read – no money has to change hands in order to access the content.
And third, is permission to re-use. Open Access resources typically permit users – in varying degrees -- to download, copy, print, display, distribute, search, index, and link to the information. And in some cases to make and distribute derivative works, as long as the author is attributed.
So there are a lot of different definitions of OA out there and many different flavors of Open Access, as we’ll talk about, but this definition captures what I think is important about OA – it’s online, it costs readers nothing, and it (typically) removes (some or all) permission restrictions on re-use.
Many believe that everybody who needs access to scholarly information can get it.
For many of us, especially when we are students or are affiliated with a large research institution, our libraries DO provide access to a wealth of resources – including journals and monographs that are too costly for us to access on our own.
But there are several problems with this: Not all libraries have the same amount of resources (and therefore the same access). The access problem at institutions of higher learning that focus on teaching rather than research is particularly bad. And institutions in developing countries struggle to provide access to journals, even with UN efforts like HINARI (health), AGORA (agriculture), which are UN-brokered deals with STEM publishers like Elsevier that offer free or near-free access to the scholarly literature for 100 of the poorest countries in the world. Secondly, not everybody who needs access is affiliated with a university. 3) And third, the explosion of information in the digital age, coupled with the rising costs of this information, make it impossible for libraries to purchase ALL of it for their faculty and students. Library Journal, in its annual Periodicals Price Survey, predicts that journal prices will increase by around 6% on average in 2015. In a time of declining state support and when library budgets have not recovered to pre-2008 (recession) levels, this can very easily translate into journal cancellations. (Library Journal, April 2014, page 37)
This one’s a two-parter. One very common misconception about Open Access publishing is that anything published “Open Access” is of poor quality, and that peer review at OA journals – if it exists at all – is lacking in rigor.
This myth takes a number of forms:
That OA is equivalent to self-publishing (e..g pubilshing something on your own website) and without peer review. We know from our discussion of different types of OA publishing (green vs. gold) that there are many different ways to publish openly – one being publication in Open Access journals that have peer review. Another form of this misconception is that OA journals themselves are often low quality. They may practice peer review, but they are not prestigious, according to this myth. And many of them are fly-by-night or outright predatory journals.
A third myth about Open Access publishing is that you lose your copyright upon publications.
First of all, you automatically own the copyright of your work as soon as you create it, regardless of whether you register it, or even whether you include a copyright page or copyright notice. Even when self-publishing on the web, the author has copyright to the content.
The same options exist when publishing through an open access channel as when an article is published through a traditional subscription model: the author may in some cases be able to retain copyright, or may be required to grant the journal publisher copyright. But in either case, the article is still copyrighted, either by you or the publisher.
Many, but not all, open access journals have liberal polices that allow authors to retain copyright. Most traditional subscription-based journals have standard copyright transfer agreements that require authors to turn over copyright upon publication, but some such publishers will agree to negotiate this requirement, or have a standard agreement that is more liberal.
As an author and copyright holder, if you wish to clearly instruct readers about what you authorize them to do with your content, you can attach acreative commons license.
Over the last decade or decade and a half, institutions have increasingly turned from print to digital publication of theses and dissertations. Graduate schools and libraries have always been charged with publishing and safeguarding the products of PhD and other student research. But the past practice of printing and binding dissertations for the library, for them only to sit on library shelves for access through interlibrary loan, is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead, dissertations are submitted in digital form and published in institutional repositories, where – increasingly – they are openly accessible and far more discoverable by other scholars.
In fact, according to the Registry of Open Access Repositories, 117 Institutions worldwide have an OA mandate for Theses. - http://roarmap.eprints.org/view/type/thesis=5Fmandate.html
Myth: Open access mandates infringe academic freedom
This myth has its origin in the response to the Finch Report in the UK which recommends mandating Gold OA. There is some truth to this myth but also a lot of misunderstanding about how OA works.
Researchers argued that it limits researchers’ choices in where to publish which is true. However, many publishers allow authors to publish preprints to OA repositories. They also argued that the funding for research would be depleted as resources were directed from providing access to subscription journals to funding the publication of research to Gold Open Access journals or from pay per view to pay per say. There is some truth to this if institutions don’t author processing charges. If more institutions issue a Gold OA mandate more libraries could begin allocating money to support OA publishing from funds they currently use to subscribe to journals. Finally, researchers argued that the quality of the research would suffer for lack of peer review and we’ve already established this is not true/ Although, this myth originated in the UK in response to a national mandate, we addressed it here because OA is an international movement and making research openly available is a global concern and a human right.
Oa mythbusters v2
Abridged from the the Texas Digital Library:
Debunking misconceptions, half truths,
and outright lies about OA Scholarly Publishing.
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International-LIcense.
Open Access literature is digital, online, free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author
-Peter Suber. “ A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access.” 2004
Myth #1: Access is not a problem
Not all libraries have the same amount of resources (and
therefore the same access).
Not everybody who needs access is affiliated with a university.
The explosion of information in the digital age, coupled with the
rising costs of this information, make it impossible for libraries to
purchase ALL of it for their faculty and students.
Open Access articles are not peer reviewed
Cann, AJ. (2008) Peer Review. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/6735929719/
CC BY-SA 2.0
Predatory’ open access
journals do exist but
quality OA journals do
have peer review
Reputable open access journals go through the same peer
review process that articles published in traditional journals do.
Many belong to the OA Scholarly Publishers Association or
adhere to its code of conduct. OA articles archived in
repositories are also, most often peer-reviewed.
Myth #3 You lose copyright
As an author and copyright
holder, if you wish to clearly
instruct readers about what
you authorize them to do with
your content, you can attach a
creative commons license.
The same options exist when publishing through an open access
channel as when an article is published through a traditional
subscription model: the author may in some cases be able to retain
copyright, or may be required to grant the journal publisher copyright.
But in either case, the article is still copyrighted, either by you or the
As an author and copyright holder, if you wish to clearly instruct
readers about what you authorize them to do with your content, you
can attach a creative commons license.
Publishing Theses & Dissertations OA makes
it impossible to publish later
“…Theses are not considered prior publications by [a
majority of] journal editors or university press directors in the
social sciences, arts, or humanities…”
“…Publishers recognize that a book or journal article must
be adapted to a new audience and conform to peer review,
so the final work will be different in many ways from the
According to the Registry of Open Access Repositories, 117
Institutions worldwide have an OA mandate for theses.
OA threatens academic freedom
Nearly all publishers allow authors to publish pre-prints to OA repositories
and offer the Gold OA option for immediate access subject to an fee.
Most institutions will have budgets allocated to allow academics to publish
for the Gold route.
Open access: six myths to put to rest
Open access to research is still held back by misunderstandings
repeated by people who should know better, says Peter Suber.
Guardian Higher Education Network Blog. October 2013
Peter Suber is the director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, and author of Open Access (MIT Press, 2012) Twitter @petersuber
Find out more
Contact the Library:firstname.lastname@example.org