What are Open Access Journal Articles

Introduction |

Today I will be discussing Open Access (OA) Journals. OA Journals have been around for over 15 years. In the past, scientific publishers considered OA as a threat, but this is fast changing as the majority are now embracing the concept of OA, albeit most of the publishers still have their journal contents restricted behind a paywall, requiring subscription access fees, with numerous copyright laws associated with them. Scientific Publishers have had to engage in a lot of legal battles over copyright infringements, winning some and losing some.

What are open access journal articles
What are open access journal articles

In recent years, there have been several lawsuits running into millions of dollars, restrictions placed by courts on the illegal access and use of paywall restricted journal articles, arguments for and against paywall restrictions of journals. This debate is further fueled by the widespread use of the internet and social media.

In the past, information was difficult to come by; most people were limited by the limited available information in their institutional libraries, mostly physical. However, the narrative has changed today. Electronic-libraries are now widely available, and with this comes the need to enrich such libraries for the use of its teeming users.

Proponents of Open Access to Scientific Journal Articles argue that Publishers are reaping off the Scientific community with huge subscription access fees. These fees would be understandable if the Publishers were actually spending money making physical copies of the Journals, but the reverse is the case, as most of the journals are now available in electronic prints, circumventing the need for physical print copies. More Institutions are finding it hard to cope with the ever-increasing number of Scientific Journals with the attendant huge subscription fees being paid to Scientific Publishers for Journal access, and as a result, several libraries are now embracing and focusing on OA journals.

Individuals have also played a huge role in this. Sci-hub, a popular web application, whose founder, Alexander Elbakyan has gained notoriety as the “Robin Hood” of academia, has played a huge role in facilitating easy access to paywalled research articles. Sci-hub is playing a huge role in changing the views and opinions of many stakeholders in research.

Does this then mean that Scientific Publishers are experiencing a decline in revenue? What options do they have? To understand this, we need to know the concept of OA and paywall restricted access to Scientific Journals.

Methods of Scientific Publication

Basically, Scientific Publication follows two methods- the paywall restricted subscription access Journal publication (commonly referred to as Legacy Publishers) and an Open Access Journal publication (commonly referred to as Open Access Publishers).

Paywalled/Subscription Based

The paywalled/subscription access method is the age-old practice in which Scientific Publishers obtain a major chunk of their revenue through Institutional Journal access subscription fees payable by Institutions such as Universities, Research Institutes, etc. Most Scientific Journal Publishers own the rights to the articles in the Journals. Reading the articles requires payment of an access fee, using the article in anyway also requires seeking the consent of the Journal Publishers and attracts an additional charge. This type is commonly referred to as Paywall Restricted, and can be removed by either personal or Institutional subscription. This is considered by some to be too restrictive. 

Open Access

The second method of Journal publication is that of Open Access, in which the Scientific Publishers make their Journals accessible for “free”. According to PLOS “Open Access stands for unrestricted access and unrestricted reuse”.

Types of Open Access Journal Article Publications

Majorly, there are two types of OA journals available- Gold OA and Green OA journals.

Gold Open Access

In the Gold OA, the entire articles in the journals are made “freely” accessible online by the publishers once they are published. The only revenue generated by the publishers, in this case, is paid by the article authors or their funders (such as institutions) in the form of article processing fees. In essence, such journal articles are peer-reviewed and can be freely accessed directly on the Publishers’ website.

Green Open Access

Green OA journal articles are freely accessible elsewhere asides from the Publishers’ website. This is popularly referred to as Self-archiving, which entails the article authors uploading the article onto a repository which can be either personal, institutional, websites/other online repositories such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu, arXiv, etc. Such green OA journal articles may be available as a pre-print version before publication (in which case such articles are not peer-reviewed), a manuscript version when the article is already accepted for publication or in the final published form referred to as Version of Record (also peer-reviewed).

The Version of Record (VOR) articles are usually made available as delayed green OA, after a specified period of time (Embargo Period) has elapsed, mostly after a duration of one year, depending on the Scientific Journal Publishers. So in essence, eventually most Scientific Journal articles will be available as green OA journal articles after the Embargo Period has elapsed.

This Post first was originally published on my deprecated blog- EduTechtainMent.com.ng

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