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Library Guide to Academic Publishing: Open Access

What is open access publishing?

Open access is an alternative to traditional publishing models, making articles and other materials free to read. Open access works on a spectrum. Some examples of this spectrum of open access publishing would be an author making an article available through an institutional repository like Walden Uiversity's ScholarWorks, publishing in an open access journal that provides content free to its readers rather than charging subscription fees, or developing an open textbook available for free to any students or faculty.

How does the open access publishing process work?

  • Open access journals provide their publications free to readers through an online platform.
  • Open access journals may use the peer-review process, and submission processes will vary, as they do with traditional publishing. Check with the journal about submission requirements.
  • Because there are still costs associated with publishing a journal, the costs are typically picked up by the authors, or sometimes by a consortium of users (such as libraries).  Costs to authors may be subsidized by their affiliated universities or institutions.
  • Copyright and licensing options for open access publishing may include the option for open licensing.

Traditional publishing issues that led to the open access movement

  • Subscription costs for traditional subscription-based journals have risen dramatically; many libraries are having to make hard choices about subscriptions based on budgets that have stayed flat or fallen.
  • While subscription costs have risen, the academic community has pointed out several key factors about traditional publishing:
    • Articles published in traditional subscription-based journals are provided by researchers/scholars, whose research may be funded by tax-supported government agencies or grants.
    • Researchers are not typically paid for articles, and often need to publish as part of the tenure process.
    • Traditional journals are generating profits through articles that are acquired usually at no cost to the publishers.
  • The traditional publishing process may not reach as many readers due to issues of cost and access.
  • Open access publishing has attempted to address the issue of access by making research free to read.
  • Costs of publishing open access journals are kept lower through publishing online versions of the journals only, and through having authors pay a publishing fee that helps cover costs of publication.
  • Open access allows online availability of research, often more quickly, potentially increasing scholarly communication and sharing of research.

Open licensing & copyright

Open licensing allows authors to maintain copyright, while giving permission for various non-commercial uses.

Creative Commons is an organization providing standardized open licensing options. Creative commons licensing allows creators to retain copyright, while choosing to allow others to copy, distribute, or manipulate their work. 

Before publishing in any journal, open or traditional, check on copyright/licensing options/restrictions to make sure you understand your rights to your material after publication.

Beyond research articles

The open access movement has expanded beyond making research articles openly available, and is now addressing issues with textbook costs and research transparency. 

Open Educational Resources (OER)

Textbooks have also been subject to rising costs. With OER, universities and scholars have developed open textbooks, along with other teaching and learning resources, and have made them freely available online, with copyright/licensing that allows open use.

Open Data

Open data looks at ways to provide access to a variety of materials for open use, including datasets, statistics, transcripts, survey results, etc. Researchers can use this type of information to verify and replicate research results, perform meta-analysis, or otherwise manipulate and extract data.

Directories & publishers

More information