Even though Open Access is a much, and sometimes hotly, debated issue in the world of universities, publishers and politics, it is a very simple concept. It rests on the idea that publicly funded institutions, such as universities, should make the published results of academic research available on the internet, free of charge. At present the majority of those results, journal articles, are sold by commercial publishers. As a rule authors are requested to transfer their copyright to the publishing companies before their articles can be published. It is common practice rather than a legal obligation to do so, but it is often complicated for authors to hold on to their rights. In the past decades the feeling that universities have to buy back what originally was theirs – in the form of journal subscriptions – has become stronger and stronger. Add to this that the costs of subscriptions continue to rise while library budgets continue to shrink, and it is only logical that the academic world is looking for a way out of a ‘toll-only’ system.
Green and Golden Road
So far, a solution is sought in two main directions: the so-called Green Road and Golden Road. Open Access in accordance with the Green Road means that, even if they agree to a transfer of copyright, authors keep the right to deposit their own version of an article in an institutional repository. Somewhat simplified, “their own version” can be the text as it was originally submitted for publication, or the text as it stands after the editorial and peer review processes have run their course. Usually the institutional repository is a website that is maintained by their university (library). Depositing the manuscript of an article in a repository is already allowed by some 80% of the journals involved.
The Golden Road solution means that authors, or more likely their institutions, pay the so-called Article Processing Costs (APC) to the publisher. In exchange they have complete freedom to distribute the articles as they see fit. APC’s can vary but as a rule-of-thumb it is safe to assume they will be between 1,000 and 2,000 US dollars – per article.
At present the Open Access world is hybrid as Open Access (both Golden and Green) can be a policy at the level of a publishing house, a journal and even an article.
The right to give away
It is good to realize that in both cases, the author and/or his employer only retain (or buy) the right to give away for free what they have produced – a right that is theirs to begin with. Also: by giving away what is theirs, universities do not reduce subscription costs, since they still need to buy access to the published results of research that was done in the rest of the world…
Author: Hans Brandhorst