Published 29 September 2020

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 have all been raised in recent open access book workshops and discussions.

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. 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) (2020a), which lists nearly 400 publishers and requires that academic books are “subjected to independent and external peer review prior to publication”. In addition, the OPERAS Certification Service will soon be available “to certify publishers at both the publisher level and the individual publications level” (DOAB, 2020b).

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.

Paying a Book Processing Charge (BPC) is the only way to publish open access

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 can be used. In addition, funding is sometimes available to cover the costs of open access. For example, in June 2020 the Dutch Research Council (NWO) announced its renewed open access policy for academic books, which includes funding (NWO, 2020).

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 is excluded from the licence that is applied to the work. All third-party content, including content which you have permission to use, must be clearly marked.

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. Problems of plagiarism are related to enforcement rather than protection. On a positive note, if a work is openly available it should also become more traceable in a plagiarism case.

Last edited on 29 September 2020, at 14:50 (+0000)