Defining Open Access
Open access (OA) refers to freely available, digital, online information. Open access scholarly literature is free of charge and often carries less restrictive copyright and licensing barriers than traditionally published works, for both the users and the authors.
While OA is considered a new form of scholarly publishing, many OA journals comply with well-established peer-review processes and maintain high publishing standards. Please see Peter Suber's thorough overview of Open Access on the following website: http://legacy.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/overview.htm.
OA Business Model
Evaluating Open Access Journal Publishers
Many questionable open access and print journals send invitations to publish in future issues or serve on editorial boards. Before submitting an article or agreeing to a seat on an editorial board, investigate the reputation and legitimacy of the journal.
Fortunately, opportunistic journals are easily detectable. Steps to determine whether a journal or publisher is predatory include:
- Visit the journal's website. Some publishers' websites appear professionally created and managed, however closer inspection may reveal poor design, typographical errors, and grammatical errors that would not appear on a reputable publisher's site. Be cautious of those that provide only web contact forms.
- Review the journal's scope as described on the website. Most questionable journals have scopes so broad that they will publish articles on nearly any topic.
- Check that a journal's editorial board lists recognized experts with full affiliations. Contact some of board members and ask about their experience with the journal or publisher.
- Examine articles that appear in the journal and judge their caliber. Predatory publishers are not interested in producing journal articles that demonstrate excellent research or that offer compelling arguments, and rarely engage in screening or quality control.
- Check the peer-review policy. Unscrupulous publishers promise a quick peer-review turnaround. Considering the peer-review process used by reputable journals can take months, a publisher that states their peer-review system takes as little as 21 days is either rushing the process or not doing any peer-review at all.
- Check for the author's publication fee schedule. If it does not appear on the website or if the publisher states it will notify authors of the fee after their papers are accepted for publication, the publisher is likely charging excessively high author fees. Legitimate journal publishers make this information easy to find on their website.
- Be wary of e-mail invitations to submit to journals or to become editorial board members.
- Find out whether the journal is a member of an industry association that vets its members, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org) or the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (www.oaspa.org).
Green vs. Gold
Green OA publishing refers to the self-archiving of published or pre-published works for free public use. Authors will provide access to preprints or post-prints (pending publisher permission) in an institutional or discipline archive. Example of a green OA is arXiv.org.
Gold OA publishing refers to works published in an open access journal and accessed via the journal or publisher's website. Examples of Gold OA include PLOS (Public Library of Science) and BioMed Central.