All this talk of Free is great, but nothing is completely free right? In Open Access we mean free to the user, but some of the hidden, or non-monetary, costs of open access contribute to some of the issues related to open access so let’s take a look at them.
Remember Professor A from the Open Access 101, from SPARC video?
Remember also Professors B & C?
They all worked for free, right?
Well, not really. Professor A probably used some library resources (books, subscription databases, Inter-Library Loan) for which the library paid, and he may have used some of this time at work to write it, for which the university paid him. Then, if he submits it to a subscription journal instead of an open access one, the library will have to buy the journal to get access to Professor A's work; the work the university already paid to create through library resources and salary.
It’s also true that it didn’t cost Professors A, B, and C money to write and review the article, but they did invest their time. While they don’t expect to get paid cash for their effort, they do expect that by contributing to scholarly communication and expertise in their fields that they might gain promotion and tenure. This is important because promotion and tenure committees sometimes don’t count articles submitted to open access journals and resources as highly as those submitted to prestigious scholarly publishers and journals, even though open access resources can also be peer reviewed high quality research. So frequently scholars are discouraged from submitting their articles to open access journals. One way to promote open access is to advocate for promotion and tenure committees and guidelines to give equal consideration to open access articles when appropriate.
Back to Professor A. Remember that he gives his article to the publisher for free.
Well that wasn’t really free either. It’s true that money probably did not change hands, but publishers almost always require authors to assign their copyrights to the publisher. So the cost of publishing for the author is the loss of most, or all, of his or her author’s rights -- the copyrights she or he automatically has upon creating the work. You can support open access by learning about and protecting your author’s rights and copyright.
You can also help support open access by considering giving your work a Creative Commons (CC) license. Some open access publishers are open to CC licenses and some journals are even distributed under creative commons licenses. Creative Commons licenses do not effect your copyrights, they are different things.
All images from from Open Access 101 by SPARC.