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K-State Today

October 25, 2012

Open access fees: Is it worth it to pay to play?

Submitted by Donna Ekart

Is it worth it to pay to have journal article published as open access? Many faculty face this question, so it’s a good topic to explore as K-State celebrates Open Access Week.

Open access is the ability of anyone to view and download your article without having to pay. This has been proven to be a good thing, since open access articles are cited more often in other scholarly publications than those articles available only through paid access. Authors have three options for making their articles open access:

  1. Major traditional, scientific publishers such as Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, Springer, and others have started giving authors the option to make individual articles open access for a fee. This means that someone visiting the publishers website and finding the article would be able to download the article without having to have a subscription through their university or otherwise paying a fee. The cost to you: about $3,000. SHEPRA has put together a good guide of the costs: Publishers with Paid Options for Open Access.
  2. Another option is to publish in journals that have open access as the center of their business plan. The journal does not charge any access fees, but the major journals typically have a publication fee to be paid the author. Fees vary widely, but range from $1,000-$2,500 for the top open access journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals lists over 8,000 journals and is a good place to find open access journals in your field.
  3. For no cost, you can deposit your article in the K-State Research Exchange, or K-REx. Articles in K-REx are open access, indexed by Google and Google Scholar, and given a permanent URL that facilitates linking to the article. 

There is a catch, though. Whether or not you can do this is determined by the self-archiving policy of the publisher. The vast majority of publishers, Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, and Springer included, allow this. They stipulate that you can deposit only your as-accepted manuscript, not the publisher formatted version. K-State Libraries staff work with faculty to verify publishers self archiving policies and deposit their articles in K-REx. 

Given these options, what’s the best way to go? There’s no best answer for all cases and all faculty, but here are some factors to consider: 

  • Traditional publishers who charge open access fees are struggling to maintain a traditional business model at a time when access to information is changing dramatically. They still sell subscription-based journals so the fee you pay, at least in part, is supporting that model. You pay to provide access to your individual article, but your fee doesn’t help advance open access as a new paradigm for scholarly communication.
  • If you’re going to pay an open access fee, it makes more sense to support a journal that has open access at its core and provides access to all articles it publishes. An open access journal will not only provide open access for your individual article, but will advance open access in your field. The fee you pay is helping to promote a better model for scholarly publishing. The main issue may be whether there is an appropriate open access journal for your article. While the number of open access journals is increasing and some are leaders in their fields, it may be the case that the highest quality journal for your article is published by a traditional publisher.
  • Think long term. Publishers offer open access now, but many publishers are commercial firms and are subject to the ebbs and flows of the marketplace. Even if you make your article open access through other means, depositing your article in K-REx helps to ensure your article will be available long-term. K-REx can also serve as an e-portfolio — a single place to safely archive your scholarly publications.

If you have more questions about making your work openly accessible, contact Jenny Oleen, scholarly communications librarian, K-State Libraries.