Simply put, open access describes unrestricted access to peer-reviewed scholarly research. Unrestricted access most frequently refers to an online version (HTML or PDF) that does not require payment or subscription. Not all versions of the content must be freely accessible to qualify as open access, so a publisher may make the HTML version free, while charging a reader for the PDF.
So open access means free?
Not entirely. Open access content is usually published with additional usage rights as defined by Creative Commons licenses. For example, an article published under the attribution license, or CC BY, grants readers the ability to “copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified.” At the other end of the spectrum, the non-commercial no derivative works license (CC BY-NC-ND) restricts usage to non-commercial purposes and does not allow for derivative works (unless those rights are granted by the authors). The type of license to be used is often dictated by the funding agency.
What are “green,” “gold” and “hybrid” open access?
Sometimes referred to as the “flavors” of open access, these describe the method via which open access is being provided. If an author self-archives his or her work in an open access repository (e.g., PubMed Central, institutional repository), this is considered “green” open access. “Gold” open access refers to publishing in an open access journal that provides immediate open access to all content. “Hybrid” refers to a journal that will provide immediate open access to select articles via an article processing charge (APC), though other content remains restricted.
The APC referred to above should only be required following peer review and the notification of acceptance. Simply being an open access journal does not remove the obligations of a journal to follow editorial standards pertaining to peer review and conflict of interest. The existence of so-called “predatory” journals—those that exist solely to collect publishing fees with no consideration of academic integrity—means that authors should be wary of submitting to journals that make promises of acceptance and engage in questionable editorial practices.
How do I find an open access journal?
Wolters Kluwer’s open access publishing program offers peer-reviewed open access options to meet the needs of funders and authors and maximize article visibility. Options include hybrid open access models across a number of journal publications, as well as fully open access specialty titles. All articles published in open access journals are freely available to readers. There is no subscription fee to read and access content and articles are made available under the terms of a Creative Commons license. All articles published in an open access journal are subject to an Article Processing Fee (APC) which is typically paid by an author, institution, or funding agency prior to publication. All content in Wolters Kluwer’s open access journals undergo peer review before an editorial decision is made. A full listing of Wolters Kluwer open access journals can be found online (www.wkopenhealth.com/journals.php).
One of the greatest misconceptions regarding open access publishing is that open access journals are fundamentally low in quality. As early as 2004, Thomson Scientific established that across all specialties “there was at least one open access title that ranked at or near the top of its field" in citation impact. Since that report, the number of high-quality and high-impact open access journals has only grown. The truth is that the quality of a scholarly journal is a function of its authors, editors and referees, not its business model or access policy.