In the context of open science, open access refers primarily to the publication of scientific articles, books and similar publications. Open publications are available to all interested parties free of charge, online, unrestricted and without most copyright or licensing limitations.
The classical publishing model
Simply put, in the classical model of publishing scholarly articles, authors create a manuscript, a publisher edits it, prepares it for print, and publishes it in a journal. The publisher then receives income from subscriptions paid by libraries or other institutions. With the spread of the Internet, print journals expanded online and, in addition to subscriptions, also offered the possibility of paying to read or download an individual article.
However, the price of subscriptions and the charges for online content are very high and are rising unacceptably. This limits access to scientific knowledge for researchers and others. In addition, authors have to give up their copyright (ownership rights) of articles to publishers, so they are in fact not allowed to freely use the results of their own work. For these reasons, many experts consider a subscription-based publishing system to be unsustainable.
Open access publications
More and more scientific journals are therefore moving towards open access. In what is known as the golden route, the publisher publishes articles on the journal’s website (or similar publishing platform) and immediately makes them open access. In this case, the publisher typically receives income from the so-called Article Processing Charge (APC) – a fee paid by authors for the editorial processing and publication of an article. Individual journals use either this “pure” golden route or various modifications of it.
An alternative is the green route, where authors publish in a journal with a subscription fee but archive some version of the manuscript (pre-review, pre-editorial or post-editorial) in an online data storage – a repository – with open access.
You can find more detailed information on open access, for example, in the PDF document from the National Technical Library webinar Open Science and Citizen Science (pages 45–102; the text is partially in Czech and partially in English).
What to remember when publishing with open access
Different journals vary widely as regards the exact conditions for publishing. When deciding where to send your manuscript, databases that provide information about open access journals – such as Sherpa/Romeo or Directory of Open Access Journals – can help.
Journal Checker Tool allows you to find out whether a particular journal’s publication policy meets your funder’s open access requirements.
If a journal does not provide open access to an article as soon as it is published, you can publish a version of your article yourself in an open access repository. Which version it is depends on the terms and conditions of the given journal. Usually it would be one of the following three:
– preprint: the pre-review version of an article (essentially the manuscript before it is sent to the editor),
– Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) or postprint: the version of the article after peer review,
– Version of Record (VoR) or Publisher’s Version: the final version after peer review, editorial processing and typesetting.
Registries and search engines such as re3data.org and DOAR can help you find the appropriate repository. You can use either subject-specific repositories (for example, Europe PMC for biology) or universal ones (e.g. Zenodo).
Open access articles should be easily searchable. This is helped by so-called persistent identifiers – codes that uniquely identify a document, person, etc. DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is typically used for scientific articles, ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) for their authors.
Persistent identifiers have practical advantages beyond the field of open access. The Internet address of an article on a publisher’s website may change when the website is updated, but the DOI remains the same. The ORCID is uniquely assigned to a particular researcher, thus preventing mistakes in identification that arise due to name matches, change of surname e.g. after marriage, different transliterations of names into English, etc.
An open access article must have a clearly defined licence – this tells the reader what they are entitled to do with the article. Probably the most commonly used licenses are Creative Commons. Some grant providers recommend or even require that research results be published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence that allows the work to be redistributed, modified and otherwise exploited, with the only requirement being that the author is credited.
There are also more restrictive types of Creative Commons licenses, which for example prohibit commercial use or modification of the work. These are used e.g. for monographs and similar larger publications.