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Open Access: Why Choose Open Access?

This guide gives and overview of Open Access Practices and also includes information on the Open Access Fund.

Who benefits from Open Access?

  • The authors of scholarly works who, under the OA model, will have greater control over their intellectual property rights;
  • The research community which will see partnerships grow because information is easily shared;
  • The patient who can access research information that directly addresses his or her personal health concern;
  • The taxpayer who helps fund research through public grants.

See also SPARC's comments on the benefits of institutional repositories

What is the Impact Factor of OA journals and what are "alt metrics"

One metric that is frequently used to understand the degree to which articles of a journal are noticed is the “impact factor” or IF. Journal Citation Reports (JCR) calculates the IF for many science and social science journals giving authors, readers, and publishers a rough estimate of the visibility of a journal. The JCR database includes many OA journals some that have surprisingly high IF’s given their very short publication history. For example, PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine, both no more than 10 years old, ranked number 1 (out of 86 journals) and number 5(out of 153) in their respective JCR categories of Biology, and General/Internal Medicine.  Several studies have also shown that free online articles increase citation rates (see for example, Lawrence, 2001 or Eysenbach 2006).

Another class of research metrics known as  "altmetrics" (alternative metrics) takes into account the rate at which articles are downloaded, mentioned or archived in various social media. The effect of information dissemination via websites such as Mendeley, CiteULike, and Twitter as well as many blogs is almost immediate providing seemingly real-time measures of the influence of an article. 

What is the effect of the OA movement on access to scholarly information worldwide?

In a study published in Science in February 2010, authors Evans and Reimer determined that people tended to cite OA journals more than non-OA journals by about 8%. But more striking was the difference in citation rate among poor nations (defined by gross national income) where the researchers in these countries cited OA journals as much as 20-25% more frequently.

Are there government mandates for Open Access in the U.S.?

Currently there are several proposed or active federal mandates in the U.S.  There are also various state proposed policies.  Listed below are the federal laws and bills.

  • The NIH Public Access Policy Act was signed by former President George W. Bush into law in December 2007. It mandates all recipients of NIH funding to deposit into PubMed Central , an open online repository, all publications upon acceptance resulting from the funded project. After a 12 month embargo period following publication, articles are to become openly accessible.
  • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued an open access directive in February 2013. The OSTP directive requires federal agencies with $100 million of extramural research and developement expenditures to devise a plan for their grant recipients to deposit  publications as well as scientific data resulting  in a publicly accessible respository.  In June 2013, the Association of Research Libraries in partnership with several higher education associations, unveiled its strategy for complying with the OSTP mandate.  Known as Shared Access Research Ecosystem or Share, it calls for the use of digital repositories of academic institutions already in place to become the recipeints of publications and data.
  • Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) bill was introduced in Congress in February 2013 (HR 708S 350).  Similar to the OSTP directive, it requires researchers with funding from federal agencies with extramural budgets exceeding $100 million to deposit their publications into publicly accessible repositories within 6 months. 
  • The bill for the Public Access to Public Science Act (PAPS) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2013.  It requires public access to research publications immediately after the publisher's embargo period.  Unlike the OSTP directive and FASTR, the agencies covered by PAPS includes only the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Weather Service. 

Is OA content of lower quality than what is found in traditional journals?

Since information in self-archived repositories is not necessarily peer-reviewed, isn't the content potentially of lower quality than what is found in traditional journals? Each repository develops its own policies on who may submit and what can be submitted. Some have strict guidelines and membership requirements others are more open. For example arXiv, the mathematics and physics central repository, is very open, accepting primarily pre- and post-prints. To ensure a minimal level of quality however, it utilizes a system of moderators who can reject items based on inappropriate subject matter, inappropriate format of the submission, duplicated content, or submission of copyright protected material. However, experience from other high energy physics repositories is that most content in fact has been subjected to internal review prior to submission to arXiv or an alternative repository. Many deposited articles in fact go on to be formally submitted for publication.