Open access is built on the premise that research should be available to all to facilitate its use in further studies and increase the global access to scientific knowledge. When it comes to research publication, there are two basic tracks: the traditional subscription-based model or open access. As a researcher, you should be familiar with both models along with their advantages and disadvantages. Open access can often be confusing for researchers so this article provides an overview of open access and its types along with the critical things you should consider when deciding whether to choose open access or subscription-based journal.
Subscription-based model is the traditional method in which readers pay to access journal content. Typically, institutional libraries pay for bulk subscriptions to journals, and thus students and researchers have access to the content in those journals. However, individuals without an institutional connection or those whose institution does not subscribe to a desired journal often must pay for a specific article. In this model, the copyright is generally transferred from the author to the journal.
Open access model is the publication method in which articles are freely and immediately available to everyone. Although authors are typically required to pay article-processing charges (APC) to publish in an open-access journal, they generally retain the copyright. Open access journals frequently use Creative Commons licenses, which allow for sharing and reuse. Several types of open access models are briefly described later in this article.
According to the STM Global Brief, more than 30% of all scholarly articles in 2019 were published through open access, and in some countries, such as the UK, that percentage was much higher. This number is expected to grow significantly as public access to research continues to be promoted.
Open access is an important shift in scholarly publishing as it greatly facilitates the equal access of research to all. Traditional subscription-based access has been becoming increasingly more expensive and even price prohibitive for some institutions, especially for those in developing countries. Open access offers the opportunity for more equitable access to research worldwide.
Some journals are fully open access and freely provide all content, and others are hybrid and offer only some free content while keeping the remainder behind a paywall. Still other journals provide open access to their content after a specific embargo period.
There are two general types of open access models, referred to as gold and green models. The following are brief descriptions of these types, although many variations can be found within each category. Usually, articles under these models are peer reviewed, except as noted below.
Gold model – Open access journals of this type provide readers with free online content; however, the publication cost is typically borne by the authors. This article-processing charge (APC) is sometimes financed by the author’s institution or funder.
Green model – Under this model, articles are published in subscription-based journals but a post-acceptance version of the article may be deposited in an open access repository by the author prior to publication. This method is frequently used by authors who cannot pay the APC. However, these self-archived articles are often deposited in the repository prior to being peer reviewed. Additionally, some journals do not permit self-archiving; therefore, authors need to check with the journal before using a repository.
Variations of these two models also exist. For example, subscription-based journals sometimes provide free access to special issues or specific articles. In addition, some journals are now using what is called a diamond or platinum open access model in which neither the author nor the reader is charged.
The history of the open access model can be traced back to the first web page in 1991. Here are a few major milestones3.
The decision about where to publish your research can be extremely complex. All methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to consider when you’re deciding where to submit your work.
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