Open Access Journals

As I have mentioned before, Journals today operate in one of two major business models: the traditional pay-wall model and the open-access (OA) model. Both models include a small processing fee prior to acceptance. Under the traditional model, the reader (or the institution) pays a fee per-article or as part of a subscription, in order to obtain access to the full text of a published article. The OA model is reversed, the author pays a publication fee for the accepted article and any reader can access the full text of the article for free. Full free access can be immediate (Gold open access) or the article may become freely available following an embargo period (Green open access).

There are a few reasons to choose a journal that operates under an OA model. Some funding bodies and institutions require research results to be freely available under gold or green OA models in the interest of making scientific knowledge accessible to an audience as wide as possible. A major advantage of OA journals is that they seem to have a shorter lag-time between article acceptance and publication.

By their very nature, OA articles enjoy a greater visibility; the full text of OA articles gets downloaded (and presumably- read) at greater numbers than those that are behind pay walls. A few studies (examples are here, here and here), analyzing bibliometric data of articles published (for the most part) until 2010 have shown impact advantages for OA publishing.

However, it is important to note that an OA model does not guarantee a high IF. A recent article has shown that beginning at 2011, the meteoric rise in the IF of OA journals has leveled-out, and that in recent years, OA journals are distributed across the IF scale in a manner similar to that of the pay-walled ones. In this same paper, authors found a direct proportional relationship between the article processing fees charged by the journals and their respective IF[1].

The major disadvantage of OA journals is, of course, the publication costs (article processing fees; APC), which can run as high as thousands of dollars in some journals. This may make OA publication an inaccessible option for authors that cannot afford the fees and cannot obtain funding from their institutions for this purpose. Authors with limited funds do have some available options. Some publishers offer full and partial waiver programs. The large publishing houses (including SpringerOpen and BioMed Central, Wiley, and Elsevier) give priority or even automatic fee waivers to authors based in countries eligible for research4life access. Certain professional societies that publish OA journals may sometimes fund, fully or partially the OA costs of certain papers. Other options that are available as alternatives to out-of-pocket author payments are re-imbursements by funding bodies, and waivers of publication fees to institutions that are included in specific membership programs.

Thus, it is important to understand the actual price for publishing a specific paper in a specific OA journal and explore all possibilities for alleviating the price burden as part of the target journal selection process.

The next post will focus on levels of evidence of scientific papers.

[1] “Is open access the solution to increase the impact of scientific journals?” Aurelia Magdalena Pisoschi • Claudia Gabriela Pisoschi, Scientometrics, DOI 10.1007/s11192-016-2088-x

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