Open Access Basics
What everyone needs to know about Open Access
Open Access Fees & Financial Assistance
The publishing process is labor-intensive and costly even when the finished product is made freely available. Increasingly, publishers have begun shifting these costs directly to institutions, research funders, and authors. Authors rarely pay out-of-pocket but often find themselves responsible for budgeting grant funds for the purpose or for seeking support from sources like George Mason Libraries’ Open Access Publishing Fund.
Open Access mandates tied to Research Grants & Funders
The majority of Open Access fees are paid by research funders. An increasing number of funding bodies have adopted policies around how published results of research should be openly shared. George Mason Libraries can help authors comply with these policies.
Author Rights Retention, Publishing Contract Negotiation
An author can often comply with funder Open Access requirements even if their work is ultimately published in a subscription journal. George Mason Libraries can help with negotiating the necessary rights at the contract stage.
Different paths to Open Access
An increasing number of major academic publishers offer an Open Access publishing option, which typically includes a fee. At the same time, authors may often deposit a version of their research publication in an Open Access repository on campus or managed by their disciplinary community. George Mason Libraries can help you choose the right path for your work.
Concerns about Quality
Scholarly quality is business-model agnostic. In order to ensure you are working with legitimate publishers, follow the Think. Check. Submit. evaluation checklist. George Mason Libraries can help.
Discoverability & Impact
Research indicates that scholarly works published in Open Access journals are more frequently cited than those in closed-access journals, on average.
Open Access Publishing Fund
The University Libraries offers financial support to eligible members of the Mason community to offset the costs of publishing in scholarly open access (OA) journals that charge author fees. Complete and submit the Open Access Publishing Fund (OAP Fund) application on the University Libraries’ website to apply for funds. Please read the following journal eligibility requirements before applying. Contact Aaron McCollough (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions.
Most OA publications do not require payment because the host institution or a society absorbs the burden of cost. However, one OA business model currently practiced transfers the costs of publication from the end-user or an intermediary (i.e., the subscription model) to the producer (i.e., author). In this model, access to online articles is free of pay barriers, hence its label as “open access” content.¹ Users may print-out or electronically share these articles without payment to or permission from the copyright holder.
To that end, the Open Access Publishing Fund at Mason supports four broad goals:
- To encourage publication in scholarly open access journals.
- To reduce financial barriers to scholarly research,
- To disseminate scholarship produced at George Mason University as widely and immediately as possible, and
- To foster research and artistic collaboration among and between scholars at Mason and throughout the world.
The University Libraries generally allocates $25,000 per fiscal year to underwrite some or all of an article processing charge (APC) required by a reputable open access publisher (defined below). Researchers who receive grants that permit monies to be allocated for open access publication will not receive support from the OAP Fund (check ROARMAP to learn more about your funder’s policy).
Individuals eligible to apply for publisher payment of an APC may receive up to $3,000 per fiscal year, with a $3,000 cap per article. Financial support will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds are not distributed according to an individual’s affiliation with a particular school, college, or department. Nor is it the intention of this fund to endorse specific OA publishers or publications.
Criteria used to select an OA journal in which to publish mimics those to vet a traditional, subscription-based journal. That is, research the journal’s review process, reputation in the discipline, impact factor (or similar metric), and acceptance rate. In addition to the appropriateness of the subject content, these criteria may have bearing on your decision to submit to a particular journal.
Requirements must be met by a journal for an individual to apply for OAP funds. The journal must:
- Be listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (www.doaj.org),
- Hold membership in the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (http://oaspa.org/membership/) or demonstrate adherence to its Code of Conduct (http://oaspa.org/membership/code-of-conduct/),
- Publish its standard fee schedules, and
- Waive its article processing fee in cases of financial hardship, as evidenced by its public policy.
The plethora of open access journal titles, and attendant indiscriminate manuscript solicitations, invites caution before entrusting one’s research and reputation with a publisher. Journals or publishers listed in Beall’s List of predatory scholarly open-access publishers require greater scrutiny by authors and the University Libraries.
Authors may wish to publish in a journal that offers the option of paying a fee to make a subscription-based article immediately and freely available online (i.e., the “hybrid” model). Support for a hybrid journal’s optional open access fee will be considered if:
- the publisher is a non-profit society or institution,
- access to the journal’s proprietary content is available only through subscription with the society or institution and not through a for-profit aggregator like Proquest, Ebsco, or Elsevier,
- the fee and its use are clearly indicated on the journal or publisher website, and
- the fee is waived for authors from developing nations or those with demonstrated financial hardship.
Click here to learn more about what factors to consider when selecting an open access journal to publish in.
Who is eligible?
- Mason faculty members (adjunct, term, research, tenure-stream, tenured)
- Graduate students
- Post-doctoral fellows
An individual whose article has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed open access journal in which the article is immediately available online is eligible to apply. To apply, an author must complete and submit:
- an OA Publishing Fund application,
as well as submit:
- a letter of acceptance from the publisher,
- a copy of the manuscript indicating affiliation of each author on the paper, and
- a copy of the publisher’s invoice for the article processing fee (may not be immediately available).
Attach these digital files to the application or send them to:
Scholarly Communication & Open Access Lead
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, MS 2FL
Fairfax, VA 22030
Applicants will be notified of funding approval. Payment will be made directly to your publisher within five working days, or as soon as possible, upon receipt of an official invoice from the publisher. The University Libraries cannot reimburse an author.
Fees are pro-rated for multi-authored articles. That is, if more than one author from Mason applies for funding support for the same article, the article processing fee will be divided equally, up to the $3,000/article cap. Authors not affiliated with Mason are not supported. Consequently, a publisher’s invoice must indicate what portion of the fee George Mason University will be paying on behalf of the submitting Mason author; this is a Virginia state accounting requirement.
Payment of article processing charges to BioMed Central require a different payment scheme. If publishing with BMC, please contact Aaron McCollough (email@example.com) for more details.
Researchers who receive grants that permit monies to be allocated for OA publication will not receive support from the OA Publishing Fund.
Researchers receiving support from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, for example, are encouraged to use grant monies to underwrite required open access publication of their findings.
OA publishing subsidies may be available through discretionary departmental or college/school funds, as well.
Authors who receive support, please include this statement in your acknowledgements: Publication of this article was funded in part by the George Mason University Libraries Open Access Publishing Fund.
MARS Submittal Requirement
Authors who are supported by the OAP Fund are expected to deposit the article (“version of record”) in Mason’s digital repository, Mason Archival Repository Service (MARS), upon publication. Please send the article link to Aaron McCollough (firstname.lastname@example.org) for this purpose.
1. “Open access,” as defined in the Budapest Open Access Initiative, means “free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”
Where to publish?
As defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, users of open access journals have the right to “read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles.” The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is currently the most thorough and authoritative source for conducting research in and on open access journals published throughout the world. An application must be submitted for every journal to be considered for inclusion in the DOAJ, with over 40 pieces of information checked for every application. Here are some of the criteria DOAJ staff and volunteers check:
- The journal’s ISSN(s) number(s) is registered at issn.org and matches the application;
- The title in the application matches what is registered at issn.org;
- The country of the publisher in the application matches that registered at issn.org;
- The journal has an editorial board with identifiable members; members’ contact details are requested as part of the application review process. These will not be made publicly available.
- The full text of articles is free and immediately available upon publication;
- There is no embargo (delay) on the content being made freely available;
- The journal’s Open Access policy is clearly stated and easily findable on the web site;
- The journal executes some form of peer review that is clearly stated on the web site and matches that which is stated in the application form;
- The journal is Open Access according to the BOAI definition. By this it is meant that the journal’s articles have “free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.”
- If the journal has article processing charges (APCs), they are clearly stated and easily findable on the web site;
- If the journal has any other kind of author charges, they are clearly stated and easily findable on the web site;
- The language of the full text articles matches the language stated in the application.
Questions to ask yourself when exploring open access journals to publish in might include:
- Does the journal have an Impact Factor (see Journal Citation Reports®) or similar metric(s) reflecting its status within the research community?
- Where is the journal indexed?
- Is the review process transparent?
- Is an author fee charged and does the publisher reveal what that fee covers?
- Are fees waived for any reason?
You may want to contact the journal editor directly, as well as review some of the articles yourself, to assess the quality of the work in that journal.
Finding OA Versions of Paywalled Articles
The cost of scholarly journals and books is often high, but Mason Libraries are committed to providing Mason researchers access to the materials they need. Researchers should not have to pay article access fees.
For non-OA materials, we have cooperative Interlibrary Loan (ILL) partnerships with universities regionally, within the state, and worldwide to help get you the research and classroom materials that you need, which are not otherwise immediately available. Requests may be made through the main library website’s ILL page.
OA Search Tool Browser Plug-ins
Free versions of millions of published, paywalled articles are currently legitmately housed in distributed repositories across the country and the world.
New browser add-ons will search for free copies of paywalled articles across these numerous resources.
- The Open Access Button add-on searches numerous sources for legal, freely available full-text versions of articles. It also allows reseachers to make a direct self-archiving request to the author of the unavailable paper or dataset.
- Unpaywall provides a similar service, once installed in your browser, by indicating whether a free version exists for any article you locate online.
More About Open Access
- Open Access Directory (OAD) – A wiki maintained by the Open Access community that provides information on topics related to Open Access.
- Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook (OASIS) – Aims to provide an authoritative ‘sourcebook’ on Open Access, covering the concept, principles, advantages, approaches and means to achieving it. The site highlights developments and initiatives from around the world, with links to diverse additional resources and case studies.
- OpenDOAR – A directory of academic open access repositories that allows users to search for repositories and repository contents.
- Publish, Not Perish: The Art & Craft of Publishing in Scholarly Journals – A five-module course created by University of Colorado librarians for graduate students and junior faculty interested in scholarly publishing.
- ROARMAP – (The Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies) an international registry that charts the growth of open-access mandates adopted by universities, research institutions, and research funders that require their researchers to provide open access to their peer-reviewed research articles by depositing them in an open access repository.
- Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) – SPARC provides a full suite of resources for librarians, authors, publishers, editors, and others who would like to educate themselves and help to create change in the scholarly communication system.