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Research Impact Challenge

Publish Open Access

Publishing in open access (OA) journals is a great way to make your work available for all to read, and it has the added advantage of getting you more citationsviewsMendeley readers and Twitter mentions. What’s not to love about that?

In this week’s challenge, we’ll discuss some advantages and considerations to publishing your work open access, and we’ll share tips on how to publish OA.

Open Access Publishing Considerations

Open access publishing has a tremendous number of advantages, but it also has a few caveats that you may want to consider. Let’s break down some of the considerations:


  • More citations: Open Access journals garner more citations, as numerous studies have shown (and continue to show).
  • More readers: A 2008 BMJ study showed that “full text downloads were 89% higher, PDF downloads 42% higher, and unique visitors 23% higher for open access articles than for subscription access articles.” These findings have been confirmed for other disciplinesas well.
  • More altmetrics: An study found that open access articles also receive more academic social media attention than articles that are paywalled in toll-access journals.
  • More access for those who need it: there are plenty of people who might need access to your work – scholars from small institutions and developing countries, patient advocatespatients themselves, and citizen scientists. Publishing open access will allow more people to read your work and potentially benefit from it.
  • But wait! There’s more! reports that open access articles have:
    • greater public engagement
    • faster impact
    • wider collaboration
    • and increased interdisciplinary conversation


  • Perceived lack of prestige: It’s an unfortunate fact that reviewers for tenure and promotion often judge the quality of articles by the journal of publication when skimming CVs.  Article-level metrics can be an answer to this problem, though – a highly cited paper is still highly cited, no matter where it’s published.
  • It might be expensive for authors: some open access journals charge publication fees that cost anywhere from $0 to $4300, making OA publishing a non-starter for underfunded researchers. Fee waivers are available, and the OU Libraries has an Open Access Fund to help cover fees. We’ll cover these in a bit..
  • Your colleagues might not see your paper: if you publish in anything but the top journals in your subject area, chances are that your colleagues won’t be aware of your paper’s existence. It’s hard nowadays for your colleagues to follow all the new developments in your field, so if you choose to publish OA, it might take a little legwork on your part to get them to notice your article.
  • Concern about deceptive publishers: We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that with the rise of OA publishing there has been an increase in the number of unscrupulous publishers sometimes known as predatory publishers. Of course, publication ethics are important for all publishers. But so-called predatory publishers engage in deceptive, deceitful, and/or fraudulent activities which may actually end up harming your reputation. The Think, Check, Submit initiative was developed to help authors identify deceptive publishers, and the Open Access Journal Quality Indicators were created to help authors as well. When in doubt, contact your OU Libraries liaison librarian.

We think that the benefits of open access vastly outweigh the drawbacks, especially given the pace with which academia and funders are increasingly embracing open access. Luckily, you can make your articles open access without having to publish in a lesser-known OA journal.

Which Open Access approach is best for you?

There’s more than one way to publish open access. In addition to the popularly-known “gold” OA route – publishing in an open access journal – you can also self-archive your traditionally published work (“green OA”) or pay a fee to a traditional, subscription journal to make your paper open access (“hybrid OA”). Here’s what you need to do for each:

Gold OA

Gold open access journals make all of their articles open access immediately. There are many different business models for gold open access publishers.  Some gold OA journals like PLOS Biology, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, Evolutionary Psychology, and Glossa require that authors pay a publication fee or “article processing charge” upon acceptance for publication. About 70% of gold OA journals don’t charge a fee though, and some publishers offer fee waivers for those who need financial assistance. With some careful planning, you can also cover gold OA publishing fees by writing the expected fees into a grant budget or by getting assistance from OU Libraries Open Access fund. We discuss this in more detail below.

Hybrid OA

Some subscription journals will allow authors to pay a fee to make their paper open access, even if other papers in the journal are not. This practice is known as “Hybrid OA” publishing. Hybrid OA journals allow authors to both publish in a journal that is recognized by their peers, while also reaping the benefits that open access publishing provides. But such fees can be expensive for authors, and OU Libraries OA Fund doesn’t cover hybrid journals, because the Libraries are already paying hefty subscription fees to these traditional journals. If you must publish in a hybrid journal because of its perceived prestige, OU’s VPR’s office has Open Access Support. And know that there are ways to publish in hybrid journals and still make your work openly available (again, we discuss in more detail below).

Green OA

Green Open Access is the practice of publishing an article as you normally would in a subscription journal and posting a copy of your article on your website or an institutional repository such as AUrora. It’s a popular option for those who can’t pay open access fees, but it has two major caveats: embargo periods and the inability to upload the publisher’s pdf of your article.

Often, publisher restrictions mean authors have to wait a year or longer to make their work available via green OA, leading to major delays in the dissemination of their work. And most publishers never allow authors to upload the publisher’s pdf. Instead, they allow uploading the post print (author’s final, submitted manuscript after all peer review and revisions, but before copy editing and layout) or a preprint (author’s final draft before peer review). We’ll be covering embargoes, preprints, and post prints in more detail in the next two chapters of the OU Impact Challenge.

Open Access funds & fee waivers

If you decide to go the Gold or Hybrid OA routes but need some help meeting the publication fees, you may have several options.

Grant budgets

If you’re a PI on a grant, you can often write in expected publication fees into your budget. Or if you’re working with a forward-thinking PI, you might ask them to foot the bill out of their grant funds. Given that more and more funding agencies require public access to the research they fund, they’re becoming increasingly amenable to covering such costs. Check with your funding agency’s program officer for more information.

Fee waivers

Some Gold OA publishers will waive their publication fees for authors who hail from developing countries or who can document financial hardship. Check with your publisher as to whether such waivers are available and what the qualifications are for applying.


This week’s homework is mostly planning for the next two OU Impact Challenge chapters (and for your future). Unless you’ve got an article in the hopper, waiting to be published, you’ll do the following with future publications in mind.

  • Research Open Access journals in your field: two places to start your research include Cofactor’s Journal Selector tool and the Directory of Open Access Journals’ listings. Both indexes have mechanisms in place that allow them to curate open access journals that adhere to high quality standards.
  • Find out what OA funding options and fee waivers exist for you: contact your AU Libraries liaison librarian to research the OA journals you and search the websites of those journals to learn about what fee waiver programs they offer.
  • Select at least 3-4 published articles you’d like to make openly available. You’ll use them in the next few weeks as we dive deeper into open access.

This guide is based on the "30-Day Impact Challenge" by Stacy Konkiel and used here under a CC BY 4.0 International License and the OU Impact Challenge which is also licensed CC BY 4.0.  Many thanks to those authors for creating and sharing these materials.