Explaining Open Access Journals with the Language of Math (for Those Who Like that Sort of Thing)

In my experience, the #1 confusion about open access journals (that is, “gold” open access journals, or journals that are made fully and immediately open access by their publishers) is the meaning of the word “open.”  Some mistakenly think that “open” has to do with how easy it is to publish in those journals.  But that is decidedly not the case.  No, the “open” in “open access journals” means that the journals make their content freely available online for all to read.  Put differently:

open access = anyone can read the journal
open access ≠ anyone can publish in the journal

This is hugely important: open access publishing is not self-publishing or vanity publishing!  Of course, just as some non-OA journals are higher quality and more selective than others, some OA journals are higher quality and more selective than others.  Before submitting an article to any journal, take a close look at its articles, authors, and editors!

So, I like to use those two pseudo-equations to clarify open access, and I’m finding that a Cartesian graph comes in handy too, to explain that the openness of a journal is completely independent of the journal’s quality or rigor.

Imagine a graph with an x-axis and y-axis, where the x-axis is level of openness, and the y-axis is the quality or rigor or prestige. There are journals in all four quadrants: excellent subscription-based journals, excellent open access journals, crappy subscription journals, and crappy open access journals.

Cartesian graph - openness and quality

I’m an advocate for open access publishing, so I wish I could say that all open access journals are high quality.  But I can’t.  Unfortunately, wherever there is a chance for a profit, there will be profiteers.  And recently there has been an explosion of “predatory” open access journals whose mission is profit, not the dissemination of scholarly information.  It’s not that they publish scholarship and happen to have fees to cover expenses.  No, it’s that they charge fees to make a profit and happen to publish some articles, many of questionable quality. For more about predatory open access journals, see Jeffrey Beall’s List of Potential, Possible, or Probable Predatory Scholarly Open-Access Publishers.  Unfortunately, by having shady practices, these journals put the reputation of open access more generally at risk.  But don’t let these predatory journals turn you against open access.  Remember, there are also very excellent (top-tier, high-impact, etc.) open access journals!

So what’s the upshot of all this?  We must carefully evaluate all journals – print or electronic, subscription or open access!

Advocate for OA in New York State!

The New York State Higher Education Initiative (NYSHEI) is calling for your help in conveying the importance of open access to New York representatives in Albany. The NYSHEI-drafted bill, TAPFR – Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research (A.180/S.4050), will be presented to the state legislature shortly.

NYSHEI’s TAPFR Policy Paper describes the goals of this bill:

  • each researcher funded totally or partially by New York State taxes submit an electronic copy of a manuscript that has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal;
  • that the manuscript is preserved digitally in a repository that provides free public access and long-term preservation; and,
  • free, online access is publicly available no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

NYSHEI is asking that anyone who has an interest in open access write to their representatives. They are also providing a sample TAPFR Letter of Support that you could use as a spring board for your own letter.

New York, by becoming the first among states to adopt an open access policy, would give its research and researchers an advantage over colleagues in other states.  Making discovered knowledge more available leads to greater influence as the work is more available for citations.  Additionally students, faculty, and the academic institutions themselves will benefit through lower costs and more access to peer-reviewed scholarship.

Please help NYSHEI and New York and show your support for openness and public access to publicly-funded work!

Event Announcement: “Open, Connected, Accessible: Navigating the Road to Digital Scholarship”

“Open, Connected, Accessible: Navigating the Road to Digital Scholarship”

Date: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Time: 2:30-4pm
Location: 6304.01, Psychology Department, Graduate Center
Hashtag: #DigitalGC

How are digital technologies changing how we, as academics, do our jobs? What are the implications for faculty, for graduate students, and those in between? This conversation will highlight the most crucial issues in higher education and offer guideposts about how to navigate the road to scholarship in the digital era.

Publishing & Open Access in the Digital Era

  • Jill Cirasella, Assistant Professor, Library Department, Brooklyn College (for a few more weeks) & Graduate Center (in a few weeks), @jillasella

Networked Scholarly Collaboration and the CUNY Academic Commons

  • Matthew K. Gold, Associate Professor, English, City Tech, @mkgold

Tools for Making Scholarship Accessible

  • Joan Greenbaum, Professor Emerita, City University of New York, @Ashanda100