Open Access Publishing: Boon or Bane?

The question of whether publishing in open access journals is a good option cannot possibly be a close-ended one. The open access method not only aids researchers and the institutions they are affiliated to, but also nations. As far as researchers are concerned, they can avail the much-needed visibility that these journals offer. On the other hand, there is evidence to show that countries benefit as well because open access increases the impact of the research in which they have invested public money. A benefit of research that is funded by the public is that it is available free of cost.

Traditionally, libraries used to and still subscribe to closed access journals. It was the only viable model that helped publishers disseminate content and recover cost. On the flip side, this meant that only researchers belonging to wealthy institutions that could afford to pay subscription charges could read high-quality journal articles, and even they could afford only a fraction of the world’s research literature. With regard to universities in poor countries, this proportion is meager.

In the age of the Internet, however, it is easier to access open access articles by way of a search engine.

A criticism pertaining to open access journals is that payment for publication leads to a conflict of interest and has a harmful impact on peer review neutrality. This is so, as there is a monetary incentive involved in the said journals wanting to publish more articles. The significance of peer review does not lessen under the open access framework. Regulations are, however, required to ensure that peer reviewers are not influenced by publishers.

Of course, this argument applies to subscription-based journals as well. Therefore, there are financial advantages for both open access and subscription-based publishers.

While the end user does not have to engage in a cash transaction to read an open access article, someone must do so to bear the cost of publication. It is usually rendered by the author, his/her employer, or a research grant. In times of fund cuts, researchers might be hesitant to opt for the open access route.

Open access publishing helps researchers reach a wider audience, and this readership leads to more citations for the author as the articles are downloaded and cited more than articles published in closed access journals.

Many argue that open access journals do not enjoy the same reputation as traditional journals. Besides, they are often accused of adopting predatory practices to cover costs. A major chunk of their revenue is generated from publication fees and this often leads to authors getting duped.

The debate is likely to go on forever as both forms have advantages loaded in their favor as well as a fair number of criticisms.

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