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Open access: OA Myths and Misconceptions

Predatory OA Publishers

Myth: Many OA publishers are just in it for the fees-they will publish any paper as long as the authors are willing to pay the fees, no matter if the paper is good or not, even if they claim to be a peer reviewed journal.

This myth was brought back into focus with a study by John Bohannon in Science.  Bohannon wrote a fake paper which he then submitted to over 300 OA  journals to see how many would accept it.  255 journals had decided by his end date: 98 rejected the paper, 157 accepted it.  The study was touted to show that many OA publishers would accept anything.

There were a few problems with this, which were pointed out by scientists, OA advocates, and critics. 

•  Commonly noted was that Bohannon did no similar test for traditional publishers.  We are supposed to accept that OA is a horrible place for academic publishing, but the study doesn't show how traditional publishers would have fared.

•  His method of choosing OA journals to contact is problematic.  One of the best sites to use choose a journal is, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.  OASPA has strict rules and criteria for joining.  A lesser site to use is the Directory of Open Journals, this is more of a listing of Open Access journals, and while they are working on bringing higher standards to the list (and removing known offenders), it is knowns that a journal's presence on the DOAJ is not a statement of it's quality.  One of the worst sites to use is Beall's List, a list of known predatory OA publishers.  Bohannon used DOAJ and Beall's list to find journals to test.  He also only tested those that have fees.

The truth about this myth is that there are publishers that are only in it for the fees.  But it is not limited to just OA publishing; it's in toll publishing as well.  Being careful about choosing your publisher will help you avoid the predatory publishers no matter which way you publish.


Myth: Open access works are not copyrighted.

No matter whether you publish traditionally or OA, your article will still be copyrighted.  With some OA publishers, the journal will still have the copyright (however, you will definately be able to freely distribute your article no matter who has the copyrigth with OA).

Quality and Peer Review

Myth: OA journals are low quality and don't have peer review. 

There are OA journals that are low quality and there are OA journals that don't have peer review.  There are OA journals that are high quality and have peer review.  OA is like traditional publishing in this respect.  There are high quality journals, low quality journals, established journals, and up and coming journals.  A good place to look for an OA journal is OASPA, which has strict standards for admission.

Publishing Fees

Myth: Open Access charges fess to publish whereas traditional publishers do not.

In fact, most reputable Open Access publishers do not charge fees: some do, but most do not.  In addition, many of the major traditional publishers have fees for non-open access publishing: page fees, color images, etc. 

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