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Open Access: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is scholarly communication?
"By scholarly communication we mean the study of how scholars in any field (e.g., physical, biological, social, and behavioural sciences, humanities, technology) use and disseminate information through formal and informal channels. The study of scholarly communication includes the growth of scholarly information, the relationships among research areas and disciplines, the information needs and uses of individual user groups, and the relationships among formal and informal methods of communication" (p. 13-14).
Borgman, Christine L. 1990. In: Borgman, C.L., ed. Scholarly Communication and Bibliometrics. Newbury Park, CA: Sage, pp. 10-27.

Open access is a form of scholarly communication that provides free, unrestricted access to information.

Does open access mean that an article hasn't undergone peer review?
No. Open access is independent of peer review. Many open access journals include peer review in their editorial process.

What are the benefits of publishing my work open access?
Studies have shown that when your work is freely accessible and not behind a paywall, it is more likely to be cited. Your work is more easily discovered and shared, and thus more likely to make an impact. There are also social justice arguments for open access. People beyond the academy -- the public -- can benefit from freely available knowledge. Taypayers who fund research can access its results. Libraries can pay for other resources and services with money saved by cancelling excessively high-cost subscription journals. Fully open access journals mean that authors retain the copyright to their work. (In other cases, faculty may still exercise their author's rights, such as in the form of an author addendum to a copyright transfer agreement.)

How can I make my work openly accessible?
There are different avenues to open access.

  1. You can publish your work in a fully open access journal.
  2. You can publish your work in a hybrid journal and select the open access option by paying an APC.
  3. You can deposit a post-print / final accepted manuscript in an institutional repository (Digital USD) or a disciplinary repository.

To discover open access journals in which to publish, browse the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). You can also consult Ulrich's Periodical Directory and Journal Citation Reports, electronic resources available via Copley Library.

What is a fully open access journal?
A fully open access journal is one in which all articles are published open access. There are no APCs to pay.

What is a hybrid journal?
A hybrid journal is a subscription journal that offers authors the option to make their work openly accessible through the payment of an APC. 

What is an APC?
APC stands for "article processing charge." It refers to the fee that some journals charge to make an article openly accessible. APCs range in cost and generally range from $1000 - $5000. An APC may also be called a "publication fee" and may be paid by funders, universities, or authors.

How can I assess the quality of an open access journal?
Boston College University Libraries has assembled an evaluation checklist of useful criteria. 

What are predatory publishers? 
Predatory publishers and predatory journals are a fraudulent operation; they charge authors fees for services they don't deliver, such as peer review. Check out this blog post for a discussion of predatory publishers and how to protect yourself as an author.

If I've already published my work in a journal, can I make it openly accessible in Digital USD?
You may be able to deposit a version (such as a pre-print or post-print / final accepted manuscript) of your article in Digital USD, depending on the policies of the publisher. SHERPA/RoMEO provides information about many publishers' policies and their stipulations.

How can editors and publishers transition a traditional journal to an open access model?
Transitioning Journals to OA
This page contains an expanding number of resources created by the University of California's Office of Scholarly Communication to support journal editors and publishers and the organizations or libraries that work with them. The resources can be used as a toolkit to facilitate the OA transitioning process.

What is a pre-print? What is a post-print?

  • Pre-print refers to the initial version of a scholarly article that is submitted for publication, prior to undergoing peer review. 
  • Post-print refers to the version of the scholarly article after it has undergone peer review and incorporated revisions, but before formatting and typesetting by the publisher. It may also be referred to as the author's final accepted manuscript.

In many cases, a publisher allows a pre-print or post-print to be deposited into an open access institutional repository.

What is an embargo?
An embargo is a period of time when access to a publication is restricted. Some publishers specify an embargo period, such as 12 or 18 months, before allowing an article to be made available in an open access institutional repository. SHERPA/RoMEO includes information about publishers' embargoes.

Where can I find open access articles, journals, and other materials?
There are many places where you can find and use open access resources. Here is a selection; for additional resources, please contact Amanda Makula, Digital Initiatives Librarian.

  • provides open access to over a million e-prints in Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics 
  • The Digital Commons Network provides open access to institutional repository content across hundreds of institutions, including our own Digital USD.
  • The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) connects people to the riches held within America's libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions. All of the materials found through DPLA -- photographs, books, maps, news footage, oral histories, personal letters, museum objects, artwork, government documents, and so much more -- are free and immediately available in digital format.
  • The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) indexes open access articles and journals. To date, there are nearly 10,000 journals and well over 2 million articles.
  • Discover open access theses and dissertations through the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD), an international organization dedicated to promoting the adoption, creation, use, dissemination, and preservation of electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). NDLTD supports electronic publishing and open access to scholarship in order to enhance the sharing of knowledge worldwide.
  • OpenDOAR is a directory of open access institutional repository and allows you to search the content across all repositories.
  • The Open Library of the Humanities supports academic journals from across the humanities disciplines -- from classics, modern languages and cultures, philosophy, theology and history, to political theory, sociology, anthropology, film and new media studies, and digital humanities. All academic articles are subject to rigorous peer review.
  • The Public Library of Science (PLOS) publishes peer reviewed, open access journals across all areas of science and medicine.
  • PubMed Central (PMC) is a free archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Library of Medicine (NIH/NLM). ‚Äč
  • The Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) allows authors to upload papers without charge and readers to download those papers for free.
  • Unpaywall allows you to "read paywalled research articles for free." It's a browser plug-in that you can freely download and install and as you are searching the Web for articles, it will light up green when an open access version is available.

What is an open access policy?
Some colleges and universities have adopted institutional open access policies in which the faculty grant the institution permission to make their scholarly articles openly accessible in an institutional repository. To see a list of institutions that have adopted an open access policy, and the policies themselves, please visit the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI) page.

What are open access mandates?
Open access mandates are requirements by funders, institutions, and/or governments to make research and scholarship available open access. Examples include the National Science Foundation's public access plan and the United Kingdom's Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Research Excellence Framework (REF) open access requirement. 
The Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies (ROARMAP) is a searchable international registry charting the growth of open access mandates and policies adopted by universities, research institutions and research funders that require or request their researchers to provide open access to their peer-reviewed research article output by depositing it in an open access repository.