Photo: PLOS Blogs
Open access holds the promise of making scholarly articles freely available to everyone, regardless of affiliation, on the internet. Digital access is free to users with the cost being borne by authors, their sponsors, the society, or the library, while peer review and proper attribution of authorship are unchanged. A variety of income models are currently in use to support open-access journals. Recently, a few institutions have signed a compact to cover costs when authors lack other funding.
View a list of University of Iowa faculty publications in Open Access journals.
Some journals are becoming Open Access after an embargo of 6-24 months. These journals generally do not have APCs and are instead funded by the subscription for the most recent issues. These are not fully open access titles, but the less current content becomes freely available.
Photo credit: Ho, Ho
While Open Access publishing has advantages for scholarly communities, the model also presents opportunities for exploitation and deceit. Organizations claiming to run peer-reviewed, open access publications are sometimes fronts operated to collect production fees from authors (APCs), publishing work with little or no review. Additionally, there is debate around what constitutes a predatory journal, and this lends an element of subjectivity to their classification. The links below are good resources but should not be considered authoritative. When consulting them, it is important to complement their information with your own scrutiny. For assistance with this, contact the subject specialist librarians for your academic field.
Aaron Swartz was a programmer and open culture activist who played foundational roles in the development of RSS, the Creative Commons organization, and Reddit, among other projects. At the age of 26 he took his own life after facing years of prosecution by the federal government for downloading large amounts of material from the article database JSTOR in an allegedly illegal fashion. The Internet's Own Boy is a documentary about his rich life and legacy, which shaped the internet and the Open Access movement into what they are, and a good introduction to what is at stake in debates on topics such as net neutrality, online privacy, and digital piracy.
Under this model, neither author, nor reader has to pay for access to the journal's content. The costs of publication are absorbed by the publisher. This article discusses some reasons why a publisher may choose this model.
When it comes to gold open access, the article processing charge (APC) model is the most common. Here, the publisher makes content free for readers, but passes along the costs of publication to authors in the form of APCs. Authors must pay this fee before their articles are published. APCs can range anywhere from under $500 to several thousand dollars, for publication in a big-name journal. As you can see in the chart below, UI authors receive APC discounts from some publishers. The Office of the Provost and University Libraries also funds an Open Access Fund that can help authors recoup APC costs.
Bowing to some of the pressures of open access publishing, certain publishers have made some of their journal content free and open while shielding other articles behind the subscription fees (usually the author has the choice to pay for his/her article to be OA). While having access to some information is better than nothing, this model is a complex one to manage. It is a challenge to librarians and to the public to know what is free and what is not. An article on the subject, from a publisher’s point of view, is Open Access, yes! Open Excess, no! (Blood, 2004, 103(9):3257).
Publishers with paid options for open access can be found on SHERPA's website.
|Publisher||Journals Included||Discount on Open Access APC||Discount Based On|
|American Chemical Society||All||50% for ACS members; 25% for non-members||Level of discount dependent upon individual ACS membership|
|100%||ECS Package subscription|
|National Academy of Sciences||PNAS||$350||PNAS subscription|
|Nature Publishing Group||British Journal of Cancer||$920||Site license to BJC|
|Oxford University Press||Nucleic Acids Research||50%||Membership to NAR|
|Oxford University Press||Journal of Experimental Botany||100%||JEB subscription|
|Biochemical Society (Portland Press)||Biochemical Journal; Biochemical Society Transactions; Clinical Science||$500||Subscriptions|
|Society for General Microbiology||Microbiology; Journal of Medical Microbiology; Journal of General Virology; Int'l Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology||15%||Subscriptions|
|Springer||SpringerOpen Journals and Books||15%||Membership|
|Springer||Chemistry Central Journals||15%||Membership|
A sampling of open access publications in the humanities: