Common myths about open access
This section aims to dispel some of the myths around open access publishing and includes sub-sections on print, peer review, quality and prestige, book processing charges, third party copyright and plagiarism.
In order to encourage and enable scholars to embrace open access, it is important to dispel a number of myths and address some of the concerns around this subject1. The questions below represent frequently asked questions in open access book workshops and discussions with authors, libraries, and publishers.
Does open access mean the end of print?
Open access and print can happily coexist; many publishers, including ‘fully’ open access publishers, also produce print copies. In fact, the revenue from print sales can help to support publishers to make books available OA. The UUK evidence report states that “there will always be a need for print purchases, and it is not the intention of open access to replace physical copies” (UUK, 2019).
Are open access books peer reviewed?
Regardless of the mode of access (print, digital, open access), not all books are peer-reviewed. In order to see if an open access book publisher conducts peer review, the best course of action is to check if it is listed on the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) (2023a), which is a global indexing service of more than 60,000 peer reviewed books from more than 600 publishers.
PRISM (Peer Review Information Service for Monographs) (DOAB, 2023b) was launched in 2022 by DOAB as part of the OPERAS service catalogue. PRISM will standardise the way academic publishers display information about their peer review process in order to provide transparency. This will help build trust in open access academic book publishing.
Alternatively, a publisher’s website should contain clear information about their peer review processes.
Does open access lead to an overall lack of quality and prestige?
Open access does not result in an overall lack of quality. Most publishers apply the same standards and procedures for both open access and non-open access titles, from editorial processes such as peer review, to production processes including design and typesetting. Inclusion in the DOAB indicates that a publisher has met quality standards. Alternatively, if a publisher is not included in the DOAB, but displays OASPA membership, this ensures that they have shown a strong commitment to quality.
Prestige is a different matter and can differ between disciplines and even individual researchers. However, it is important to note that many institutions are implementing DORA principles, which emphasise the quality of research rather than the prestige of the publisher or brand. Furthermore, major funders are beginning to require open access. See also the articles on benefits of publishing an open access book.
According to Janneke Adema, Assistant Professor in Digital Media at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University: “research has actually shown that publishing your work in open access is associated with increases in citations, downloads, and impact. […] In my own experience, publishing the research for my book […] with open access presses and journals, has led to invitations to give talks, to collaborate on research projects and papers, and even to job opportunities.” (Adema, 2022)
In this webinar, you can hear Caroline Warman, Professor of French Literature and Thought, Jesus College, Oxford, talking about her experiences with open access publishing and thoughts about prestige.
Paying a Book Processing Charge (BPC) is the only way to publish open access
It depends on the press you publish with. The book processing charge (BPC) is one model that can be used to make a publication open access. However, there are many other models that a press might use. In addition, funding is sometimes available to cover the costs of open access.
As part of the OABN OA mythbusting series of videos, Dr. Sebastian Nordhoff, Managing Director, Language Science Press discusses the myth that authors have to pay to publish OA and Jill Claassen, Section Manager, Scholarly Communication and Research, University of Cape Town tackles the myth that open access for books is only affordable to authors in rich institutions.
Creative Commons (CC) licences prevent the use of third-party copyright material
Third-party material can be used in a book published under a Creative Commons (CC) licence subject to the content owner’s agreement, just as in a non-open access book. If you include third-party content, such as an image, in a work that has been licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) the image can be licensed more restrictively and excluded from the open licence that is applied to the work. All third-party content, including open content and content which you have permission to use, must be clearly marked.
This myth is discussed in depth by Chris Morrison, Copyright and Licensing Specialist, The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, in this webinar and also by Jan M. Ziolkowski, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin at Harvard University in this OABN video.
Does open access lead to increased plagiarism?
There is no evidence that open access leads to more plagiarism; content can be plagiarised regardless of how it is licensed. Plagiarism is primarily an issue of academic ethics. All CC licences require that the original author is attributed, meaning that any plagiaristic use is unacceptable. Failure to attribute will result in copyright infringement. On a positive note, if a work is openly available it should also become more traceable in a plagiarism case.
See also this video from Professor Martin Eve about the myth of losing control of your work.
Can’t people who are interested in academic books access them already?
No. It’s sometimes claimed that the only readers with sufficient expertise to properly understand academic literature already have access to academic libraries, but if you consider only people with degree qualifications who have left academia, independent scholars, and precarious or early-career academics who are between jobs, you already have a sizeable group of people who may have difficulty accessing academic books via an institutional library – even before you consider that libraries can’t always afford the books they would like to include in their collections. The high usage of open access academic books (Neylon et al., 2021) reflects the fact that they are fulfilling an unmet need. In this video, Caroline Ball, Academic Librarian, University of Derby discusses this issue further.
If I publish open access, won’t I lose out on royalties?
Not necessarily. Open access books still sell print copies, and the evidence about the impact of OA on print sales is inconclusive (Ferwerda et al., 2018, Snijder, 2019). You can negotiate with your publisher about royalties on sales of an OA book as you can for a closed-access book, see also this video by John Sherer, Director of The University of North Carolina Press.
This article is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.