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Choosing Open Access Publishing

Publishing open access articles means that your research will be available to interested readers worldwide, without any financial or access barriers. This broad dissemination of research can lead to greater visibility and impact for your work. There are, however, several issues that you should consider when choosing open access over subscription-based publishing.

Is the Journal High Quality?

Ensuring that an open access journal is a high quality, peer-reviewed publication is essential as thousands of open access scholarly journals are now available in a wide range of subject areas. Several years ago, there was a lot of discussion about fake or predatory journals whose primary purpose was to collect fees (Article Processing Charges or APCs) from authors and whose peer review was inconsistent or non-existent. Today, many open access journals have been published for years, often by established scholarly publishers, so it may be easier to determine the quality of the journal from its website and editorial policies. If you are uncertain of the quality of a journal you are considering, read this page about evaluating journal quality.

How Do I Pay the Open Access Fees?

The costs of publishing a scholarly journal can be significant. (For in interesting discussion of what goes into the cost of scholarly publishing, read Kent Anderson's 96 Things Publishers Do.) Before open access, publishing costs were paid through subscription fees for the journals. With open access publishing, the articles are free to researchers, and the costs of publication are shifted to the author. 

While there are some journals whose costs are subsidized by grant funding or a scholarly society, most open access journals charge a fee, known as the Article Processing Charge (APC). This fee can be very high, often in the $2,500 to $5,000 range per article for top quality journals. Below are links to information about APCs for several publishers:

APCs are often covered by the grant funding the research or, in some cases, an institution or society. When funds are not available, the APC is a serious impediment to open access publishing for authors who will have to pay the fee on their own.

What Type of Open Access Should I Choose?

There is a wide range of publication types that fall within the broad term open access:

Fully Open Access
Fully open articles are usually published under a Creative Commons license that allows free access to the work and a license to reuse the work (with some restrictions, depending on which license is chosen). Fully open articles may be published in (i) gold open access journals, where all articles are openly available, or (ii) hybrid journals which offer authors the choice of traditional publishing or paying an APC to publish their articles as open access.

Delayed Open Access
Some subscription journals publish articles that are available only to subscribers for a certain period of time (typically 6 to 12 months) before they become openly available to all. Many of these journals are available through HighWire Press at Stanford.

Self-Archiving in an Open Access Repository
Self-archiving, or green open access, is a method of making scholarly works openly available in an institutional or subject repository, such as DigitalGeorgetown. Publishers generally do not allow the published final version of an article to be submitted to a repository but often allow the accepted manuscript to be made posted online. The accepted manuscript is the version that has been accepted for publication in a journal (typically after peer review and before copyediting). Below are the policies of selected open access publishers on self-archiving in an institutional repository or an author's personal website.

    • Cambridge University Press (accepted manuscript only; 6-month embargo for science, technical and medical journals)
    • Elsevier (accepted manuscript only; no embargo for personal web page; often subject to an embargo for institutional repository)
    • Johns Hopkins (final PDF OK; check specific journal policies for exceptions)
    • Nature (accepted manuscript only, subject to 6-month embargo)
    • Oxford University Press (accepted manuscript only; subject to 12-month embargo for institutional repository)
    • Sage Choice (accepted manuscript only; no embargo)
    • Springer (accepted manuscript only; no embargo for personal web page; 12-month embargo for institutional repository)
    • Taylor & Francis (accepted manuscript only; no embargo for personal web page; often subject to an embargo for institutional repository)
    • University of Chicago (final PDF OK; subject to 12-month embargo)
    • Wiley (accepted manuscript only; subject to 12- to 24-month embargo)

For other journals, check the journal's website or SHERPA/RoMEO, a database searchable by title or publisher that provides information about self-archiving policies.

*** Publisher's policies may change, so be sure to consult the journal's website or your editor for current information about self-archiving your article.  ***

*** As an author, you may wish to negotiate with your publisher about what rights you will retain to your work. Read more about authors' rights. ***