Impact Challenge Day 15: Publish Open Access for more citations



Over the past few days, we’ve talked about ways you can “open up” your datasets, slide decks, and software. Now let’s do the same for your publications!

Publishing in Open Access (OA) journals is a great way to make your work available for all to read, and it has the added advantage of getting you more citations, views, Mendeley readers and Twitter mentions. What’s not to love about that?

In today’s challenge, we’ll discuss some advantages and drawbacks to publishing your work Open Access, and share tips on how to publish OA.

Open Access publishing: wins and fails

Open Access publishing has some great advantages to it, and also some drawbacks that are important to consider. Let’s break down some of the arguments.



  • Lack of prestige: It’s a sad fact that reviewers for tenure and promotion often judge the quality of articles by the journal of publication when skimming CVs. And unfamiliar titles in the publications list can sometimes lead to some serious career consequences. Article-level metrics can be an answer to this problem, though–a highly-cited paper is still highly-cited, no matter where it’s published.

  • It can be expensive: many Open Access journals charge publication fees that cost anywhere from $75 to $4300, making OA publishing a non-starter for underfunded researchers. Fee waivers are available, though–we’ll talk more about those in a minute.

  • Your colleagues might not see your paper: if you publish in anything but the top journals in your subject area, chances are that your colleagues won’t be aware of your paper’s existence. It’s hard nowadays for your colleagues to follow all the new developments in your field, so if you choose to publish OA, it might take a little legwork on your part to get them to notice your article.

We think that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, especially given the pace with which academia is changing to embrace Open Access. But it’s understandable if you’ve got career concerns. Luckily, you can make your articles OA without having to publish in a lesser-known OA journal.

Which Open Access approach is best for you?

There’s more than one way to be Open Access. In addition to the popularly-known “gold” OA route–publishing in an Open Access journal–you can also self-archive your traditionally published work (“green OA”) or pay a fee to a traditional, subscription journal to make your paper open access (“hybrid OA”). Here’s what you need to do for each.

Gold OA

Many Gold OA journals like PLOS Biology and BMC Medicine require that authors pay a publication fee or “article processing charge” upon acceptance for publication. Not all Gold OA journals require a fee however, and some publishers offer fee waivers for those who need financial assistance. With some careful planning, you can also cover Gold OA publishing fees by writing the expected fees into a grant budget or by getting assistance from your university’s Open Access fund. (More on both below.)

Hybrid OA

Some subscription journals will allow authors to pay a fee to make their paper Open Access, even if other papers in the journal are not. This practice is known as “Hybrid OA” publishing. Hybrid OA journals allow authors to both publish in a journal that is recognized by their peers, while also reaping the benefits of OA publishing. But such fees can be expensive for authors, and an uptake of 1-2% suggests that hybrid OA publishing isn’t a popular option.

Green OA

Green Open Access is the practice of publishing an article as you normally would in a subscription journal, and later posting a copy of your article on your website or a repository. It’s a popular option for those who don’t want to pay Open Access fees, but it has a major drawback: embargo periods.

Often, publisher restrictions mean researchers have to wait a year or longer to make their work available via Green OA, leading to major delays in the dissemination of their work. The Sherpa/Romeo guide is a great way to discover what your journal’s embargo policies are.

Open Access funds & fee waivers

If you decide to go the Gold or Hybrid OA routes but need some help meeting the publication fees, you’ve got several options.

University Open Access fund

Larger research universities sometimes have funds available for researchers who want to publish OA but can’t afford to pay out of pocket. The fund is sometimes based in the library, and other times it is stewarded by the campus research administration office. Often, there are restrictions as to how much assistance a researcher can request per year. The Open Access Directory has compiled a fairly comprehensive list of OA funds here.

Grant budgets

If you’re lucky enough to be a PI on a grant, you can often write in expected publication fees into your budget. (Or if you’re working with a forward-thinking PI, you might ask them to foot the bill out of their grant funds.) Given that more and more funding agencies require public access to the research they fund, they’re becoming increasingly amenable to covering such costs. Check with your campus grants administration office or your funding agency’s program officer for more information.

Fee waivers

Some Gold OA publishers will waive their publication fees for authors who hail from developing countries or who can document financial hardship. Check with your publisher as to whether such waivers are available, and what the qualifications are for applying.


Today’s homework is mostly planning for the future. Unless you’ve got an article in the hopper, waiting to be published, you’ll do the following with future publications in mind.

Research Open Access journals in your field: two places to start your research include Cofactor’s Journal Selector tool and the Directory of Open Access Journals’ listings. Both lists were curated with quality in mind.

Find out what OA funding options and fee waivers exist for you: contact your local librarian to see if the an OA fund exists at your institution, and search the websites of the journals you selected in the previous step to learn about what fee waiver programs they offer, if any.

Discover your Green OA rights & make your older research available: look up the journals where your most important papers were published on Sherpa/Romeo. Do they give you the right to self-archive your paper? If so, archive a copy of at least 3 of your papers on your website, institutional repository, or Figshare. And decide if you’d prefer to go the Green OA route with future publications, too.

3 thoughts on “Impact Challenge Day 15: Publish Open Access for more citations

  1. With Green OA there is no problem of journal quality or prestige: publish in whatever journal is most suitable for your work and then deposit it in your institutional repository immediately upon acceptance for publication. If the journal has an OA embargo (and you wish to comply), set access to the immediate-deposit as “Closed Access” instead of OA, and rely on the repository’s automated copy-request Button to provide “Almost OA” during the embargo with one click from the requester and one click from the author.

    Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2014) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

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