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Busting open access publishing myths for Open Access Week 2023: discover the truth about OA

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Wider access to trusted, quality research is essential for a more open, inclusive future. Open access publishing, part of the wider open research and open scholarship movements, ensures research can be discovered, read, and acted upon globally.

‘Openness can create pathways to more equitable knowledge sharing and serve as a means to address the inequities that shape societies and our response to them.’

Despite the origins of open access publishing being over 50 years old, there is still confusion around what open access means and the benefits and challenges it brings. Join us for #OAWeek 2023 as we run through our top five myths about open access and look at the truth behind the misconceptions.

Scrabble style letters spelling out facts and myths

Myth #1: open access journals don't have high quality standards

One of the most pervasive myths about open access publishing is that journals that follow this model are not peer-reviewed and have lower quality standards than traditional journals. However, the reality is quite the opposite. Most open access journals follow the same rigorous peer-review processes as traditional journals, ensuring that published research is accurate and of high quality.

In addition, there are a broad range or organizations supporting the quality standards of open access publishing, including the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), Sherpa Romeo and more. Journals are also advised follow the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing that apply to all published content.

Myth #2: open access publishing involves high author fees

Image of a green piggy bank on top of a calculator

Another common misconception about open access publishing is that all open access journals charge high author fees to support making content available in this manner. However, recently published research found that 68% of journals in 2021 didn’t charge any fees, but 69% of articles were part of journals that charged article processing charges (APCs).

Generally, hybrid journals charge higher APCs than their gold open access counterparts but prices can vary massively depending on the journal, so it’s a misconception to say that open access is inherently more expensive than traditional publishing.

Myth #3: you can only publish open access in a fully open access journal

Many people believe that if their preferred journal is not fully open access, they can’t publish open access. The truth is more complex. You don't need to publish with an open access journal to make your work available as open access. Some journals are hybrid and offer both standard and open access, and even journals with no open access option often allow for a green open access route. This means they may allow an earlier accepted version of the manuscript to be shared open access on an institutional repository. There are several models of open access publishing that you can use, including gold, bronze, green, diamond and more.

Myth #4: there are no tangible benefits for authors publishing open access

Open access publishing offers numerous benefits to authors. It can increase the global outreach of articles, increase readership and public engagement, and fulfill funder mandates. Open access publishing can also lead to higher citations, maximize readership, and re-use of published work. It also allows researchers in developing countries to see your work, it’s compliant with grant rules, and practitioners can apply your findings more easily, according to Jisc. It can also help to prevent studies being duplicated unnecessarily.

Myth #5: open access is not suitable for ground breaking work

Lots of wooden people lying flat on a blue background

This is outdated thinking, as open access has evolved and many of the world’s top ranked journals now have open access options. Publishing groundbreaking scientific findings in open access journals can lead to higher citations, maximize readership, and re-use of published work.

Some top ranked open access journals include MMWR Recommendations and Reports, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, World Psychiatry, The Lancet Public Health and more. With that said, it’s also important that metrics such as Impact Factors and Journal Rank factors need to be taken in context – there are no perfect ranking systems, which is especially important to consider as more ranking systems are invented regularly.

Open access can increase the global reach of research, make work more inclusive, improve public engagement and fulfil funder mandates. Discover more about academic publishing workflows, models and processes by checking out our resources and training:

Further reading – sources to learn more about open access:

1. TOME Stakeholder Value Assessment - Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and Association of University Presses (AUPresses), 2023 2. open access Journals Toolkit. - The open access Scholarly Publishing Association (OASPA) and DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals), 2023 3. Open access at a crossroads: library publishing and bibliodiversity – Lai Ma, Jane Buggle, Marie O’Neill, UKSG Insights, 2023 4. Cambridge University Press drops fees for low-income countries – Jack Grove, Times Higher Education, 2023 5. A free toolkit to foster open access agreements – Alicia Wise, Lorraine Estelle, UKSG Insights, 2022 6. Open access monographs: myths, truths and implications in the wake of UKRI open access policy - Judith Fathallah, 2022 7. The Cost to Publish TOME Monographs: A Preliminary Report - Nancy Maron, Kimberly Schmelzinger, 2022 8. The MIT Press open monograph model: direct to open – Raym Crow, 2021 9. University presses and the impact of COVID-19 – Charles Watkinson, Learned Publishing, 2021 10. Discipline-specific open access publishing practices and barriers to change: an evidence-based review - Severin A, Egger M, Eve MP and Hürlimann D, 2020 11. COPIM – Revenue models for open access monographs 2020 – Izabella Penier, Martin Paul Eve, Tom Grady, 2020 12. The state of open monographs: an analysis of the open access monograph landscape and its integration into the digital scholarly network – Digital Science, 2019 13. The Future of Open Access Books: Findings from a Global Survey of Academic Book Authors - Ros Pyne, Christina Emery, Mithu Lucraft, and Anna Sophia Pinck, 2019 14. Towards a Roadmap for Open Access Monographs - Knowledge Exchange, 2019 15. A landscape study on open access and monographs: policies, funding and publishing in eight European countries – Knowledge Exchange, 2017 16. Open access publishing models and how OA can work in the Humanities – Martin Paul Eve, 2017 17. Cost estimates of an open access mandate for monographs in the UK's third Research Excellence Framework - Martin Paul Eve , Kitty Inglis, David Prosser, Lara Speicher, Graham Stone, UKSG Insights, 2017 18. Changing publishing ecologies: a landscape study of new university presses and academic-led publishing – Janneke Adema, Graham Stone, Chris Keene, Jisc

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