What are Open Access journals?



The term “Open Access” is related to the type of access granted to readers to a certain publication or journal. As the term says, when researchers publish in Open Access journals, their publications can be freely accessed and read by everyone. It’s been already widely discussed whether is better or not to publish in open access.

At first thought, this is the perfect and ideal model of journal. Almost every scientist will say that science needs to be open access, but the problem is that most journals wouldn’t have survived without economic benefits. Therefore, even in open access models someone must assume publication fees. There are public journals where publishing can be totally free but most of private journals need someone to assume the costs of all the process, so the result is an open access publication. Even so, this is not that simple and there two main types of open access model, being those:

Golden open access: this model works exactly as we have already told. In fully open access journals publishers pay the costs of publication so their paper can be read for free. In this case, copyright is retained by the authors and the content can be used by other researchers always citing the original authors. Hybrid journals can be found too, which usually are subscription-based but authors can choose to publish in open access. Most researchers who want to public in these journals usually try to get economic help from institutions, like their universities, to pay all or some costs.

Green open access: publishing with this method means that a version of the manuscript is published in a repository with free access for everyone. Contrary to golden open access, this method is cheaper or free for researchers but copyright will be hold by the publisher or society affiliated. There are also some conditions and restrictions on how the work can be reused.

There are also two more models less usual:

Bronze open access: subscription-based journals that maintain publications only accessible by subscription for a time before making them open access.

Platinum open access: being platinum the most valuable category, these are fully open access journals without any publication fees. This usually need to be somehow subsidized by public institutions or science societies. 

As you can see, “Open Access” concept is not that simple. There are multiple variations of it, each of them with its pros and cons. Open access model is the future of publication but which is the best model? Or is there a way to mix them in a perfect model? Each one may have an opinion, and not every researcher or professor will have the same.

For now, we should look forward to “Plan S”, an international agreement to consolidate open access publications and journals made to settle some conditions as publication fees, who must assume them or who must retain copyrights. About this “Plan S” we will be writing in further posts.