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Why is open access important to some researchers?

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Conviction that open access helps to promote academic work influences the importance of open access as a factor in choosing a journal to publish work for more than ethical reasons.

Do the authors value open access as a factor of choosing a place to publish, because of ethical reasons or perceived career benefits? I have written here that according to Key Challenges of Research Communication 2015 De Gruyter Open Author Survey, open access is quite important to researchers, but apparently there are more important factors. 10.4% of authors labelled open access as a “10 – extremely important” factor to them, and 58.3% rate it as 6 or more on a 1 to 10 scale. Anyway, open access got the biggest amount of 5 or less scores among all analysed factors.

Nevertheless, if some academic authors value open access as more important than their colleagues do, we may ask why they do so? There are two possibilities, one is for ethical reasons, the second is expected career benefits. And it seems that the second possibility is more likely to be true.

Perceiving the ethical value of open access was measured in our research by an agreement with the sentences, “I believe that the general public should have access to research” and “Open access to research may help in the development of low income countries”. Acceptance of the first sentence correlates weakly with the importance of open access as a factor for choosing journals (Spearman 0,20). In the second case correlation was also non-significant (0.23).

Recognizing the citation advantages has bigger meaning in making openness important to the authors (correlation of 0,32). This is even more true in the case of perceived promotional advantages of open access, measured by acceptance of the sentence, “Open access makes it easier to promote academic work”. In this second case, the correlation reached the value of 0,33 and is quite significant.

This, together with the importance of factors such as a journal’s Impact Factor and abstracting & indexing covering the serial, is another piece of said evidence for the strong influence of competitive pressure on publishing behaviours in academia. The core values of scientific community are replaced by industry-like evaluation rules.

However, it is worth remembering that social pressure (from colleagues and/or supervisors) has the biggest potential to make open access important to the authors. These two variables correlate strongly, reaching a value of 0.41. So in the end, the biggest responsibility is in the hands of faculty deans, team heads and principal investigators. They wield the key to change our publishing environment.

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