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Around the World in 1 Second with Open Access!

Remember the last time you were frustrated when your colleague on the other side of the world was not aware of that one important paper that you had published? How often have you wished for a system that would help your manuscript reach all corners of the world in less than a second, for free?

For those of you who are seemingly desperate, the solution lies right on your desktop computer. Welcome to the world of open access publishing—the free share concept of academic research.

The concept of free access to scientific literature dates back to 1966, when the U.S. department of education launched a free database of educational resources. With the launch of the internet, a shift was observed in the late 1990s, when a few societies such as the Interest Group in Applied and Pure Logics and Human Genome project committees launched their Open Access portals.

The dream of starting Open Access journals and archives was realized in early 2000, when an objection was raised against the rising subscription costs which forced many institutions to cancel their journal subscriptions.

While scientists in well-funded universities across the world could afford to purchase these respected journals, their peers in countries such as China, India, and the African continent have not been able to get access to these journals until today. This situation has forced researchers from these nations to publish in inexpensive journals, which are not read by many people. This article tells you all about open access—the method to help your article reach every corner of the world in 1 second!

Open access defined
Open access is free online access to scientific and scholarly research.

Features of open access
The open access concept has certain features that benefit both the author and the reader
  • The literature is online, digital, and free of charge to viewers.
  • The author may choose to retain certain rights that prevent misuse of the article.
  • There are no price barriers such as subscription, licensing, and pay per view fees.
  • The articles are deposited immediately in an online database that is public and is maintained either by a recognized organization such as an academic institution or a scientific society.
  • The literature can be used, copied, printed, and transmitted without any restriction, provided the author of the original work is appropriately cited.

Open access differs from standard publishing models, in many ways
Open access publishing models go far beyond just providing free online access to content. In 2005, a study was conducted by the AAAS (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) on the open access and conventional publishing models. The study revealed that open access differs from standard publishing models in areas such as publishers, management, format, and others which have been compared in the table below.

Comparison between open access models and conventional publishing models
Feature
Access model
Publisher
Format
Peer review
Copy editing
Online Hosting
Financial support
 
Open access publishing
Provides free and immediate online content
Published generally by a not-for-profit organization, department, or individual
Managed by editors rather than publishers
Only published online
Peer reviewed but often in-house
Articles are often copy edited
Articles are hosted by public repositories or self-owned databases
Supported by grants
Conventional publishing
Combination of free and online content;
Published by a commercial publisher
Managed by publishers
Published in print and online forms
Peer reviewed by external reviewers
All articles are copy edited
Articles archived in publishers home page or databases such as PubMed
Supported by subscriptions and advertisements

Open access archives and open access journals—Two models one aim
Open Access archives and Open Access journals are two popular ways of delivering open access. Both formats differ in their functional and economic models.

Open access archives
  • Open access archives are databases that make articles freely available to users around the world. In sharp contrast to open access journals, the archives do not perform any peer review services.
  • Open access archives may carry research output of universities and laboratories and articles that may or may not be refereed or reviewed.
  • The archives are maintained by open-source software packages that monitor their building and performance.
  • The costs of maintaining an open access archive are negligible and just involve investment in server space and a technician to monitor it.
  • Popular examples of Open Access archives include databases such as Pubmed Central: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/and ArXiv: http://www.arxiv.org/
Open access journals
  • Open access journals peer review content and make it free to users world wide.
  • The journals maintain their own websites and also deposit their information into authorized public databases that enable free retrieval of data.
  • The costs of maintaining the journal involve paying for peer review and manuscript preparation. In most cases, the peer review is free.
Authors benefit greatly from open access
  • All authors, irrespective of their scientific discipline, wish to obtain maximum visibility for their research.
  • The research published is made freely available to researchers across the world.
  • The authors can be assured of seeing their work getting cited and downloaded with a frequency greater than in conventional journals.
  • In comparison with traditional journals that charge on a per page and per figure basis, the charges of open access journals range from nominal to free.
  • The authors can choose to retain their copyright in order to prevent misuse of their manuscript while permitting the use of the article for academic purposes.
  • The peer review process is faster compared to traditional journals.
Gerry Rubin, a key figure in the field of Drosophila genetics, in an interview with Biomed Central, remarked that a paper which he published in an open access journal— Journal of Biology—was downloaded 17,000 times, a figure which wouldn't have existed if his paper were to be on the pages of Science or Nature.
Only 47% of the open access journals charge authors.

The author's contribution is waived if the author does not have sufficient funds to publish.
In most cases the sponsoring authority of the author pays for the Open Access article and not the authors themselves.

Open access journals in the physical and mathematical sciences, such as Documenta Mathematica, publish the manuscripts for free.

In this age of global scientific competitiveness, open access is proving to be of great benefit to the scientific community by promoting visibility of research and helping citizens of poor countries gain access to research that otherwise would be hard to reach.

To sum up, the future of open access publishing looks bright and the day may not be far when your article would be available from Osaka to Oklahoma in less than a second!!

Common myths about open access
Many people in the developed nations feel that open access is not necessary because of the following:
  • Supporting open access will reduce funding for research
  • Open access is expensive because the author pays heavily
  • The public can get access to any article via an interlibrary loan
  • Poor countries already have free access to biomedical literature
  • Traditionally published content is more accessible than open access as it is available in print form
  • Industries will benefit better from open access than academic institutions
  • Open access threatens scientific integrity, as the quality of peer review may not be good, thereby leading to dubious articles being publishe

FIVE GREAT REASONS why you should publish in open access
  • You are assured of wider readership and more citations than traditional journals
  • Authors can choose to exercise their rights on the publication
  • The content can be viewed for free
  • Peer review process is faster compared to traditional journals
  • The manuscripts are deposited immediately into a public database
  • You can get your articles across the world in 1 second!!

Some great links on open access