What is Open Access?
Over the last few decades, more and more scholarly/academic publications are becoming freely available as online resources to users. These publications are considered to be Open Access (OA). In the sciences, the main OA publications are research articles which are traditionally published in journals.
Benefits of OA
OA publications benefit a researcher because it increases the “discoverability’ of his/her research by widening the potential audience who may read it and cite it in their own research. (In turn, this could aid in obtaining future research funding and improving career opportunities.) The overall positive effect of OA is that it greatly increases the distribution of knowledge.
Quality of OA Publications (Peer Reviewed)
In the early years of OA, science researchers were concerned about the quality of journal articles published in OA journals; however, over time more and more of these journals have become peer reviewed, so that they undergo the same review process as is used with ‘traditional’ science journals.
Checking OA publications for peer review status
Go to the VIU library’s Journals link (located on the library’s website) and type in the title of a journal, it will indicate whether our library collection has this journal and then provide information such as which years we have and whether the journal is peer reviewed. There is an option to link to the journal or search for your topic or a specific article on this page.
However, if the journal is an Open Access one, it may or may not state that it is peer reviewed. In the latter case, you will need to go to the journal’s online home site and check for this information. For example, on the journal page type the following search: ecology. You’ll get a long list of journals that have ecology in the title.
Scroll down the page and you’ll see that many journals state they are ‘peer reviewed’. Among them, many of the Open Access journals also state that they are peer reviewed. However, if you check the title, Journal of Ecology and the Natural Environment, which is an OA journal, it doesn’t state whether it is peer reviewed or not. So the next step is to go to this journal’s home page (website) and check for information regarding a review process. It’s usually found in the information about the journal, or information for authors, or in a section regarding submitting your manuscript. In this case select the link: About JENE. The resulting Table of Contents lists a review policy indicating that this journal is peer reviewed.
OA Processing Costs
Unfortunately, although OA publications are freely available to users, there is still a cost associated with processing and publishing this material in order to make it freely available to users.
There are various types of Article Processing Charges (APC) for both the researcher and the repositories who provide the online access to users (e.g. universities).
Here’s a definition of APC from SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)
“a pool of money set aside by an institution to support publication models that enable free, immediate, online
distribution of, and access to, scholarly research.
These funds are generally used to pay for article processing charges (APCs) in OA journals and/or
institutional membership fees charged by OA publishers such as BioMed Central …”