Dissipate Open Access Myths

Myth 1: Publishing open access means an article is not copyrighted

False. Publishing open access does not mean the article is not copyrighted. In fact, publishing through an open access platform neither removes nor reduces authors’ right on their articles. Moreover, authors retain copyrights of their articles in open access publishing system that is usually not possible in traditional subscription based publishing system.

A widespread rumor about open access publishing is that articles are not copyrighted in open access channel, and therefore, authors’ right cannot be established on their works. The truth is that authors retain copyrights and allows the publishers to publish the articles under creative commons license. However, authors can transfer the copyright to other parties through written agreement.

Myth 2: Open access threatens scientific integrity due to a conflict of interest resulting from charging authors

False. In fact, lack of sincerity and managerial incapacity of an individual publisher, not the mode of publishing that threatens scientific integrity in scholarly publishing. Following is a more detailed response by BioMed Central for such objection.

This canard has been thoroughly debunked elsewhere. The assertion being made is, essentially, that open access publishers have an incentive to publish dubious material in order to increase their revenue from Article Processing Charges. This is a very peculiar accusation for a traditional publisher to make given that in the same evidence session, Elsevier's hefty annual subscription price increases was justified as follows:

On pricing, we have put our prices up over the last five years by between 6.2 per cent and 7.5 per cent a year, so between six and seven and a half per cent has been the average price increase. During that period the number of new research articles we have published each year has increased by an average of three to five per cent a year. [...] Against those kinds of increases we think that the price rises of six to seven and a half per cent are justified."

Oral evidence to Inquiry, March 1st 2004, Crispin Davis (CEO, Reed Elsevier)

i.e. Elsevier's primary justification for increasing their subscription charges (and profits) is that each year they are publishing more articles. In which case, if their own argument is to be believed, they face the exactly the same conflict of interest as open access publishers.

Fortunately, however, no such conflict of interest exists, for either Open Access or traditional publishers. Any scientific journal's success depends on authors choosing to submit their research to it for publication. Authors publish research in order for the value of their findings to be recognized. The kudos granted by a solid publication record is crucial for scientific career progression. Authors submit their research to journals with a reputation for publishing good science. If a journal had a reputation for publishing poor science, it would not receive submissions. Thus the system is inherently self-correcting.

It should also be noted that many leading journals (both commercial and not-for-profit) already have page charges and colour figure charges for authors, in order to defray expenses and to keep subscription costs down. Just two examples (of many hundreds) are the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), and Genes & Development. So author charges are hardly an unprecedented experiment.

It is true that commercial publishers have tended in some cases to remove author charges, and to commensurately increase subscription fees, since this suits their commercial interests in maximizing profits. But it is clear that author charges pose no fundamental problem to effective peer review. [http://www.biomedcentral.com/about/advocacy12#integrity]

Myth 3: Open Access articles and journals are not peer-reviewed

False. A journals access policy, whether open access or toll-accessed, does not determine its peer review policy. While most scholarly journals irrespective their access policyare peer-reviewed, there are both open and toll-accessed journals that are not peer-reviewed. Toll-access publishers are increasingly offering an option for open access publication for individual articles. This option does not affect the peer-review and other evaluation process for those articles.

Myth 4: Access is not a problem for university users.

Subscription based publishers claim that access is not a problem for researchers at universities; virtually all US/UK researchers have the access they need; what they can't get on campus or from a colleague elsewhere, the library can get for them via interlibrary loan.

Myth 5: Faculty can always use their own published content freely in courses they teach.

False. If copyright is transferred to the publisherat the time of publication that toll-access publishers usually ask for,the publisher may restrict authors’ right to re-use the content in teaching and publication.

Read more on debunking open access myths: