Thursday, 7 August 2014

My response to some of the Open Access Myths

This morning there was an #ECRchat on twitter about Open Access publishing.  It's prompted me to write this post because there seem to be some pervasive myths about OA which stick around despite OA advocates best attempts to dispel them .So here's my attempt with 2 of them. It may come across as kinda angry, that would be because it makes me kinda angry.

1. Open Access publishing is less prestigious.

This is the comment I loathe more than anything in debates about Open Access, because although I don't know about other fields, in Genetics it's just not true. I've ranked journals by Impact Factor despite it being a useless metric (debate for another time).

Nature Genetics - 29.6 - 6 month embargo, then Green OA encouraged
Genome Research - 14.4 - 6 month embargo, unless author pays
Molecular Biology and Evolution - 14.3 - Pay for OA
Genome Biology - 10.5 - Open Access
PLOS Genetics - 8.1 - Open Access
Genome Biology and Evolution - 4.5 - Open Access
European Journal of Human Genetics - 4.2 - Pay for OA
Heredity - 3.8 - 6 month embargo, then Green OA encouraged
PLOS ONE - 3.5 - Open Access

So from this list (which I promise I didn't cherry pick to make a point) you can see that other than the Nature journals (Nat. Gen. & Heredity) you either get Open Access as standard, or you can pay to have open access (a whole 'nother can of worms).

I don't think anyone would think that publishing lots in Genome Biology or PLOS Genetics is going to be bad for your career, so at least in genetics, it's just ridiculous to say that OA is less prestigious.

2. Open Access lowers standards

When people talk about this they are conflating a number of different topics: Open Access, Journals which publish without regard to the subject and whether it's 'cool' or not and spam journals.

Lets get spam journals out of the way.

It's not really a problem. Have you seen those emails? Why would you ever publish there? Sure maybe some early Phd students might get duped, but they should have advisors who would protect them from that sort of mistake.  If still in doubt, check to see if the journal is listed here:

So now we'll tackle the difference between OA and journals that publish without regard to fashion, impact, etc.

Most of these journals are open access, e.g. PeerJ and PLOS ONE. But there are plenty of Open Access journals that are really difficult to get into e.g. Genome Research and PLOS Genetics.  Are you really suggesting that the Open Access policy of PLOS Genetics is lowering standards?

Regardless of the journals policy as regards topic, all of these journals have rigorous peer review processes, and it's mostly the same people reviewing for a range of different journals, so there isn't a difference in quality of reviewer.  Some journals (such as PeerJ) are now publishing the review process alongside the article, so you can even check how rigorous it is.

All journals are different and as far as I can see, the only thing that is consistently different across the board between OA journals, and those which aren't, is whether they make your institution's library buy a subscription in order for you to read the articles.  Seriously, that's the whole difference.