Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Guest post: Dr Nancy Pontika and open access to peer-reviewed scholarly literature

Our second guest blog post celebrating International Open Access Week is from Dr Nancy Pontika, Information Consultant (Research), Royal Holloway, University of London. Nancy's PhD dissertation was entitled: "The Influence of the National Institutes of Health Public-Access Policy on the Publishing Habits of Principal Investigators" and is available on figshare. Further biographical information can be found here.

Open access to peer-reviewed scholarly literature

It was long before the first computers integrated into our everyday lives when a technology enthusiast, Vannevar Bush, was envisioning in his Atlantic Monthly article an online library, called “memex”, where someone could effortlessly store and retrieve information.  Almost twenty years later, the idea of a virtual library was strengthened and discussions about paperless journals were becoming dominant [Sondak (1973), Senders (1977), Turoff (1978)][i]. Around that time it was becoming obvious that the future can be nothing else but paperless.

Almost ten years ago the Budapest Open Access Initiative established the open access movement. With the term open access (OA) we refer to online peer-reviewed scientific literature which can be accessed free of charge from everyone in the world provided that a person has access to the Internet.

The primary routes to open access are the open repositories (green open access) and the open access journals (gold open access).

OA infographic created by Nancy Pontika

The open repositories (green oa) can be divided into two categories, the institutional repositories and the subject repositories. The first are maintained by institutions, focus on collecting the institution’s outputs and their collections vary widely. For example, faculty members may self-archive into the repository post-prints versions of an article, but they may also self-archive the syllabi of their courses. Institutional repositories may hold students’ theses, grey literature, databases, etc. An example of an institutional repository is Sheffield’s White Rose Research Online

On the other hand, subject repositories are discipline specific repositories, and collect outputs in a specific subject field. The arXiv.org is both the first repository, established in 1991, and the first subject repository in the world and collects outputs in physics and mathematics. Another example of a subject repository is the international PubMed Central, containing outputs related to medical research.

Another way to provide your outputs open access is through the open access journals (gold oa). The open access journals follow the same quality procedures as the subscription journals; they have editors, editorial boards, conduct peer review and have a periodicity. Primarily, the open access journals have two advantages: first, they allow authors to retain some or all of the rights of their articles and second, because of their open content, they receive a high number of citations. A list of the Open access journals can be found at the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

Because the open access journals do not charge for subscriptions, they have developed alternative business models to support their publications. Some charge a publication fee for every article they publish, which is called an article processing charge (APC), while others may be supported by the universities that run them, like First Monday, which is supported by the University of Illinois, Chicago. Because the business models of the open access journals are too many, we have created a list.

In some subject fields the open access journals have gained high prestige. In medicine, for example, all the PLoS journals have a high impact factor and compete with the most prestigious traditional journals in the field. The open access journals in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) are moving slowly, but some of them have started gaining momentum, such as the Open Library of Humanities and the Social Sciences Directory.

Although the past ten years there has been a focus mainly on journal articles, currently attention is drawn both on the open access monographs and research data. Regarding the first, a great project is the OAPEN-UK project, which focuses on developing open access monographs in HSS in the UK. Regarding research data there is the excellent Digital Curation Centre (DCC), which guides researchers on best practices for managing research data and the UK Data Archive that collects data on humanities and social sciences.

[i] Sondak, N.E & R.J. Schwartz (1973). The paperless journal. Chemical Engineering Progress, 69(1), 82-83
Senders, J. (1977). An on-line scientific journal. The Information Scientist, 2(1), 3-9
Turoff, M. (1978). The EIES Experience: Electronic Information Exchange System. Bulletin of the American Society of Information Science, 4(5), 9-10
Roistacher, R. (1978). The Virtual Journal. Computer Networks, 2, 18-24.

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