Introducing Open Access

Open access literature is defined as "digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions." The primary target of the open access movement is the peer-reviewed research that is reported in scholarly journals. Articles in these journals cannot be accessed without a subscription and/or cannot be widely shared due to copyright restrictions.

To overcome these barriers, authors can make their articles open access by either
1) depositing their work in an open access archive/repository or on their personal websites (“green OA”), or
2) publishing in an open access journal (“gold OA”).

These delivery mechanisms are discussed in greater detail below.

For more information, refer to these resources compiled by Peter Suber, a leading open access advocate:

OA Option 1: Deposit Eprints in Open Access Repositories

As mentioned above, one way to make your work open access is by depositing it in an open access repository or archive ("green OA").  There are two types of repositories:

1) Institutional repositories (IR) aim to capture the research output associated with particular institutions, usually universities.
Example: RSCAS' Migration Policy Centre houses its publications within the European University Institute's research repository.

If you are not affiliated with an academic institution or if your institution does not yet have an IR, you can take advantage of worldwide repositories like OpenDepot or Zenodo.

2) Subject-based repositories (SR) seek to collect digital works within particular disciplines.
Example: The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is frequently used by forced migration authors who focus on legal issues.

Repositories host all types of research output - conference papers, theses and dissertations, course materials, blog posts, multimedia, data files, and eprints of journal articles - both unpublished or published, unrefereed or peer-reviewed.  The practice of depositing digital documents into a repository is referred to as "self-archiving."

One of the best-kept secrets of scholarly publishing is that most journal publishers already allow some form of self-archiving of article eprints (pre- and postprints)!  What about copyright? Since a preprint is the pre-published, pre-referreed draft of a journal article, the author holds copyright over this version and does not need to seek permission to archive it. A postprint is the version of an article after it has been accepted by a journal and undergone peer review (also referred to as the "Author's Accepted Manuscript"). Over 60% of journal publishers have given the go-ahead to authors to archive postprints; if one hasn't already, it very likely will when asked. (Authors can also propose modifying the publisher's copyright transfer agreement using an addendum.) Therefore, as this handout points out, "Don’t assume that publishing in a conventional or non-OA journal forecloses the possibility of providing OA to your own work--on the contrary."

At the same time, a number of conventional journal publishers do impose embargoes, or delays, before postprints can formally be made available to the public (not preprints, since authors maintain copyright over these).  Embargo periods may range from 6 to 24 months after an article is officially published.  In these situations, authors can still proceed with depositing their postprints and providing the requisite metadata to the repository. Even if full-text access is closed for a certain period, this does not restrict individuals from submitting requests to the repository for copies to be used for research purposes.  Once the embargo period has passed, access can be reset to open.

Some authors elect to bypass repositories and post eprints on their personal web sites.  This certainly works in the short-term - and in some cases may be the only option, if a journal's policy prohibits self-archiving in a repository.  However, the advantage of a repository is it can ensure persistent access to and long-term preservation of an author's research.

Self-archiving examples:
- A postprint of an article in the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, deposited in a Norwegian institutional repository; this journal permits immediate self-archiving of postprints in institutional repositories, but imposes an embargo period of 12 months on self-archiving in other types of repositories.
- A postprint of an article in the Journal of Social Security Law, deposited in an Irish institutional repository; as indicated by the dates, access to this item was initially embargoed for 12 months, but the full-text is now available.
- A postprint of an article in the Journal of Vocational Education & Training, deposited in a UK institutional repository; as this journal imposes an 18-month embargo for social sciences & humanities journals, open access is restricted until December 2015; however, a copy can be requested by clicking on the relevant button.
- A preprint of an article in the International Journal of Refugee Law, deposited in the Social Science Research Network; IJRL only allows postprints to be archived after a 24-month embargo.
- A preprint of an article in European Union Politics posted on the author's personal web site.

- Use openDOAR to locate an open access repository.
- Check this list from the Open Access Directory for subject repositories.
- Read up on the benefits of repositories.
- Search in the SHERPA/RoMEO database for publishers' copyright and self-archiving policies.
- Take a closer look at the self-archiving policies of forced migration-related journals.
- Refer to this FAQ for a detailed introduction to self-archiving.
- Learn more about author addenda from the Science Commons.
- Use this tookit to learn how to keep track of the different versions of your article.
- Ready to try self-archiving? Take a look at this guide for helpful instructions.

OA Option 2: Publish in an Open Access Journal

A second option for making your work open access is to publish an article in a relevant OA journal ("gold OA"). The forced migration field has experienced a bit of a surge in scholarly OA journal publishing, so prospective authors have more choices now than even just a year or so ago. Start by checking out this partial list that I compiled. For a more comprehensive place to look, try the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

But before you dive into a search for a suitable title, keep in mind the following:

1) Business Models: OA journals employ a variety of business models to cover their production costs, one of which involves charging a fee for an accepted article to be published (also referred to as an "Article Processing Charge," or APC).  Because the bill for the fee usually goes to the submitting author, this model has also become known as "author pays."  In reality, it is the author's funder or employer who ends up footing the bill! That said, of the journals listed in the a/m DOAJ, less than 10% charge publication fees.

2) Quality: OA journals vary in quality, just like traditionally-published journals. But the relative ease of launching online journals and the lure of APCs have attracted some less-than-reputable publishers to the open access scene. So here are a few resources to help assess a journal's credentials:
- Search for a title in DOAJ (this blog post describes the process the directory is undertaking to weed out so-called "predatory journals");
- Use the criteria highlighted in this blog post to perform your own evaluation of an individual OA journal or publisher.

3) Peer Review: Some funders will only provide support for research published in peer-reviewed OA journals. However, not all OA journals represented in the DOAJ or on my list are peer-reviewed. While good editors can still ensure adherence to high quality standards, the absence of peer review may prove to be a sticking point in some situations.

4) OA Spectrum: Some OA journals are more open than others.  As noted in the first post, the definition of open access refers to price and permission barriers.  Some journals remove price barriers (i.e., articles are free to read) but may retain permission barriers (e.g., articles are still copyrighted). Other journals remove price barriers and at least some permission barriers.  Two terms coined by Peter Suber to capture these distinctions are "gratis OA" for the former and "libre OA" for the latter.  (For an even more finely tuned measure of openness, refer to this chart.) Using Creative Commons licenses can help clarify how open a given work is.  (You can read more on these in this blog post.)

- Browse for both OA journals and articles in those journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals; you can also filter search results by various fields including publication charges and licenses.
- Law reviews are very often gratis OA, but they are not well represented in the DOAJ. Another source is the Electronic Journals Library (select "Law" and tick "freely accessible" on the right). You can also browse my blog posts labeled "law reviews" for relevant full-text articles.
- If you receive an email inviting you to publish in an OA journal you are not familiar with, check these quality-related resources to confirm its bona fides.

OA Option 3? Hybrid OA Journals

Hybrid open access is similar to gold OA, but different! Under the hybrid OA model, publishers, upon payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC), will grant immediate open access to individual articles that appear in otherwise traditional subscription-based journals.  Most of the big journal publishers have now adopted a version of this model, e.g., OxfordOpen, WileyOnlineOpen, etc. (See this table for a complete list of publishers offering paid OA options.)

Here are some recent examples of forced migration-related articles published under the hybrid OA model:

- "Associations between Life Conditions and Multi-morbidity in Marginalized Populations: The Case of Palestinian Refugees," European Journal of Public Health, vol. 24, no. 5 (Oct. 2014) [published by Oxford Journals]
- "Colonialism, Decolonisation, and the Right to be Human: Britain and the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees," Journal of Historical Sociology, vol. 27, no. 3 (Sept. 2014) [published by Wiley]
- "Contextualising Typologies of Environmentally Induced Population Movement," Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, vol. 23, no. 5 (2014) [published by Emerald]
- "Interpretation, Translation and Intercultural Communication in Refugee Status Determination Procedures in the UK and France," Language and Intercultural Communication, vol. 14, no. 3 (2014) [published by Taylor & Francis]

This arrangement offers authors the twofold benefit of continuing to publish in their journal of choice and having open access provided to their research articles immediately, rather than waiting for an embargo period to pass. Typically, however, the APCs for hybrid OA journals are significantly higher than those levied by pure OA journals - almost double. (The UK's Wellcome Trust recently released data on the amount they have paid for article APCs which supports this finding.)

Even when funders and employers are willing to finance hybrid OA APCs, studies have found that the number of authors choosing this option is still relatively low.  So far, this appears to be true for forced migration-specific journals that offer a hybrid option. For example, the tally for articles published under this model in the Journal of Refugee Studies (as of 2005 when the hybrid option was first offered) is just two articles (in 2006 & 2008, respectively). The hybrid option was only made available for Refugee Survey Quarterly and the International Journal of Refugee Law sometime in 2013. Since then, RSQ has published two hybrid OA articles, in 2014 and in 2016, while IJRL has published none.

These figures may change as publishers experiment with adjusting their pricing terms and as more funders/employers adopt open access mandates and offer grants to cover publication fees.  In the meantime, here is a table with further details about the hybrid options offered by forced migration-related journals.

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons Licenses can help authors/content creators more explicitly indicate how their work can be used and shared. Specifically, "[w]ith a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your work provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify... ."

Simply follow the instructions provided on the "Choose a License" page. You will then be provided some HTML code to insert on your web site or you can include a link from your document, photo, video or other creative work to the relevant license.

Here is a breakdown of the six CC licenses available:

  • = Attribution 
  • = Attribution and No Derivatives 
  • = Attribution and Share Alike
  • = Attribution and Non Commercial
  • = Attribution and Non Commercial and No Derivatives 
  • = Attribution and Non Commercial and Share Alike

So what do these mean?  The CC site provides a wealth of information about not only the licenses but also things to consider before selecting a license.  For just a basic introduction, read Wikipedia's entry. And for a helpful interpretation of these icons, in "plain English," read this blog post.

CC licenses are popping up all over the place, and discussions about open access invariably reference them. For example, funders of open access research are increasingly requiring that specific types of licenses be used. A case in point is the Research Councils UK, whose policy expresses a preference for publication in an OA journal operating under the most liberal license, or CC BY.

- Refer to Open Content: A Practical Guide to Using Creative Commons Licences for more detailed information about CC licenses and how to choose the appropriate one for your work.

Other Types of OA Works

While the focus of the open access movement has been on peer-reviewed journal research, scholarly output provided in other formats is also being made OA: for example, theses and dissertations, chapters in books, and even books themselves.

I regularly track theses and dissertations on my principal blog, Forced Migration Current Awareness; you can browse these via the subject label "theses."

I also reference OA-available book chapters as I come across them.  These are not designated with any specific subject labels; however, you can search for "chapter" in the blog, and then browse accordingly.

Finally, I maintain a board for "Open Access Books" on my Pinterest page. To locate additional OA titles, check out the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) and the Open Access Directory's list of publishers.