The number of open access journals continues to increase year by year. The Directory of Open Access journals (DOAJ) currently lists 10,080 publications, which are digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.

This does not mean that open access is free to produce – the costs must be borne by someone. In most cases, it is the author (or their funding body) that meets the cost of publication. There are two primary vehicles for delivering open access to research publications: archives/repositories and journals. Material published in journals is peer reviewed (or should be), whereas that deposited in archives and repositories is not (it is simply freely available to all who wish to read it). Many large funding bodies (e.g., the Wellcome Trust, the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council) stipulate that grant holders either publish in an open access journal or deposit their paper in an archive within a certain time after publication (e.g., 6 months).

However, the “author pays” model has led to the emergence of illegitimate open access journals that publish poor science that has not been subject to rigorous peer review. Indeed, the Scholarly Open Access website run by Jeffrey Beall publishes a list of such “predatory” journals. The journal Science ran a sting operation in which it submitted a paper containing several basic scientific errors to a peer reviewed open access journal: the paper was accepted. However, as mentioned in an article by the Guardian newspaper, this has more to do with an overburdened peer review system than with open access per se.

So, do authors have confidence in open access and does this publishing model have a bright future? The publishing group Taylor and Francis has conducted several large global surveys of author attitudes to open access. The latest Open Access Survey was published in June, 2014.

In total, 89,181 emails were sent to researchers in ten geographic regions (Africa, Australasia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Middle East, North America, Northern and Central Europe, South Asia, South East Asia, and Southern Europe) enquiring about their attitudes to open access publishing. Although the overall response rate was very low (7, 936 replies; 9%), particularly in East and Southeast Asia, the report makes interesting reading.

Some of the key findings:

Getting your work “out there”

%

of authors agreed that open access offers wider circulation than subscription journals.

%

of them agreed that the journals have a broader readership, however.

%

agreed that open access journals were of lower quality than subscription journals.

%

thought there were no fundamental benefits to open access publication.

Depositing work in institutional repositories

The most important reasons for depositing work in a repository appear to be:

  1. A personal responsibility to make work feely available
  2. Requests from researchers who could not access it from their own institution
  3. Institutional requirement
  4. Publisher offer to deposit the article on the authors behalf
  5. Encouragement from a colleague
  6. Funder requirement

 

Searching institutional repositories

%

of authors often search article repositories via Google or Google Scholar.

%

often search repositories as part of their research.

%

of authors agreed that articles deposited in repositories were useful for their research.

%

agreed that articles in repositories were as useful as the publishers Version of Record.

 

Main reasons for not depositing work in a repository

  1. Lack of understanding about the publisher’s policy
  2. Lack of technical understanding about how to upload to repositories
  3. Lack of time available to engage with repositories

 

Attitudes toward dissemination of research

64% of authors agreed that was acceptable for their work to be reused without prior knowledge, provided that the reuse conditions were met and they received due credit as the original author.

 

Article submission practices

In the 12 months prior to the survey:

%

of articles were published in subscription journals.

%

were published as Gold Open Access .

 

Expectations of open access journals

Peer review: 71% of authors would prefer that open access journals provided “a rigorous assessment of the merit and novelty of my article with constructive comments for its improvement, even if this takes a long time”.

 

Intention to publish more work in open access journals

%

of authors will choose to publish more articles as Gold Open Access.

%

of authors will choose to publish more articles as Green Open Access.

 

Requirement to publish more work in open access journals

%

of authors said that they will be required to publish more articles as Gold Open Access.

%

said that they will be required to publish more articles as Green Open Access.

 

The future

%

of authors believe that much research will still be published in subscription journals.

%

of authors believe that most research will be published in open access journals (with some restrictions on re-use).