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There is always an option. Open access in the time of postdocalypse

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January 13, 2015

There is a growing awareness of the fact that young researchers face difficulties in achieving their first permanent position in academia (if you are not familiar with this problem follow #postdocalypse hashtag on Twitter or read this post by Phil Jones). Usually, we are moving from one temporary project to another, and are always in the process of searching and applying for funding and positions. To have any chance in this pursuit we need publications because the number of published articles, the Impact Factor of the journals that published them, and the number of citations, are all treated as the best proxy for measuring the talent of young academics. And since the duration of postdoctoral projects is usually quite short (from 1 to 3 years), some of us cannot wait for our articles to gain citations to increase our h-index, thus the citation advantage of openness (which is broadly recognized today) is not impressive. On the contrary, if we could publish a paper in a prestigious serial (with a high Impact Factor or one that is simply well known) it increases our chances for the next grant immediately, a manuscript only has to be accepted (have a look here for Curt Rice’s post discussing this problem).

Well known open access journals

Does it mean that we, the young researchers, are not likely to publish open access papers? Yes we are, for numerous reasons. First of all, it’s a mistake to think that there are no high-quality open access journals. In fact, there are even some journals at the top of the SciMago rank (have a look here). There are plenty of high profile, open access journals, especially in the medical sciences, so I think they should be considered as the primary place of publication for all medical researchers. The situation also looks good in Life Sciences and in some fields of Physics and Engineering.

On the other hand, almost all high profile journals offer authors an open access option. So if you have chosen a journal that is not fully open access, you still have the opportunity to make it open immediately on the publisher’s website. This is usually much more expensive than the average Article Processing Charges in a fully open access journal (have a look here), but it is almost certain that it has a positive influence on one’s career in comparison to publishing a toll access article, even if it takes a couple of years before the author’s citation counts or h-index increase significantly.

A lot of funders cover the costs of the dissemination of research results, thus it should not be hard to find money for APC if you think about it before submitting the research proposal. So, simply remember: before you start working on the budget for your next research, find a journal that you would like to publish in and check the cost of the open access option. Fully open access journals are usually cheaper (and sometimes free), although as I mentioned above in some disciplines it is impossible to find a journal that is both fully open and exclusive. Anyway, usually some kind of compromise can be found. The decision is yours.

Green is almost always possible

If you are not able to find either an open access or ‘hybrid’ journal for your article, you can still make your article open via the so-called green OA route. Almost all journals allow you to publish your work in a repository. If you are not sure what is the policy of your journal, check it out on the SHERPA/ROMEO website. If your journal does not allow you to open your article by any means, I strongly recommend that you to choose another journal. Really, there are plenty of journals in every field that at least allow archiving work in a repository, and probably some that offer open access on their own website.

If you have decided to choose the green route, you should be aware that the publisher may impose some limitations. Very often you are only allowed to publish the pre-print version of your work, which means that it may have slightly different content than in the final version and different pagination, which can make citing the open access version of your work harder. You should also keep in mind that some repositories are hardly present in Google and other search engines, thus it is extremely important to choose a big and well known repository, which will make your work discoverable for others (it is usually a good idea to send your article to a disciplinary repository, not only to your institutional one).

Avoid murky places

And remember, if you are about to submit your work to lower or middle rated, subscription based journal do not do it. These journals usually have very low circulations and your work will only be read by several people. Publications in not well known journals do not count as much for your career. Thus if your work was rejected from a high quality journal, or if you are to shy to send it there, it is always better to choose an even less well known, but open access journal than a traditional one. Then you still have a chance of someone finding it on Google. But please try to not send your work to journals that you have never read before. This way you will avoid problems that may occur when someone questions the credibility of the journal’s review process. There are a lot of bogus serials, and some of them you can find by searching “open access journal” on Google, even though none of them are read, cited or discussed by recognized scientists. Thus if you are not very familiar with a source of literature in your field ask your friends, co-workers, supervisors. If you get an invitation from a new journal to submit your article, make sure that you know at least one surname from the editorial board and take 10 minutes to email the sender directly, asking for some more information about the serial.

More useful tips for choosing a place to publish your paper can be found here.

This entry was posted on January 13, 2015 by Witold Kieńć and tagged , , , , .

One thought on “There is always an option. Open access in the time of postdocalypse

  1. Pingback: Should you care about your h-index and if so, how to improve it?

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