Publishing in Open Access Journals

Image by Johnny Greig, used under Creative Commons license.

This week readers have been learning what open access publishing is and why it is important, but today’s blog entry takes a closer look at how researchers can go about locating, evaluating and publishing in open access sources.

Open access publications come in two primary types: open access journals and open access repositories.


Most open access or institutional repositories serve as a self-archiving tool and, though often widely indexed and searchable, are maintained by a subject- or institution-specific organization.  The Scholarly Commons at Georgia Regents University is one such open access model. Unlike more traditional publication platforms, institutional repositories often allow for wider variety of research material to be shared. In the Scholarly Commons at GRU, for example, you can publish posters and conference papers, campus newsletters, data sets, theses, multi-media content and more.

Submission guidelines vary from repository to repository. At GRU you must be a member of the institution and obtain permission from the administrator of the collection where you want to submit your work. Once you have submitted your work and provided metadata such as keywords and title, it will enter a review workflow were an editor will review and approve the submission. Your submissions are then indexed through the GALILEO Knowledge Repository and OAIster (a catalog representing open access collections) and are made available to a worldwide audience, greatly increasing your potential for citations.

Other open access repositories include PubMed Central, run by the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine, and at Cornell University which archives Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and other related works. It is important to note that if your paper has already been published in a traditional journal you will need to educate yourself as to that publisher’s policy on re-publication in open access journals or repositories prior to depositing your work. A directory of open access repositories can be found here:

Open Access Journals

Open access journals are very similar in format to traditional journals as they tend to be subject or discipline specific and only accept articles that are relevant to their scope and audience. Because there is no fee barrier for readers to access the content, however, the impact factor can be very high. Furthermore, most are peer reviewed and employ the same quality assurance guidelines found in their subscription-based counterparts. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a great place to start when looking for a journal appropriate to your subject area or research field. Be sure to read the publishing and licensing policies of any journal you are considering very carefully as they can vary significantly from publisher to publisher, and discuss your publishing objectives with any co-authors you may have.

The hybrid or toll-access model of open access publication is another format you may encounter and includes platforms such as BMJ Unlocked and Cambridge Open. The advantage in publishing through hybrid journals is an association with well-known and respected publishers, but that recognition comes at a price as hybrid journal publication involves a fee. This fee, paid by the author, is intended to cover associated printing and hosting costs for the article. Articles published in this manner, however, are normally not subject to licensing agreements as strict as those in traditionally published research, meaning that article can often also be deposited in an open access repository simultaneously.

The sheer number of open access options available to authors can feel overwhelming, but addressing a few basic questions such as the format of your submission, the intended audience, and what, if anything, you are willing to pay can help you narrow your options and pick the right open access publisher for your work.