Those who publish in the world of science are usually familiar with open access. There is the gold version and the green version of this free publishing form. The latter is not so well known and that is what the new staff member at the State and University Library Bremen (SuUB), Lydia Pryce-Jones, is hoping to change. Her work also includes consulting on the topic of predatory publishing and raising awareness of the dubious practices of so-called predatory publishing houses.
Ms Pryce-Jones, first of all, not all of our readers are familiar with open access. Can you give us a short explanation of what it exactly is?
Open access refers to the free, thus open, availability of scientific information. It is characterized by many aspects: The scientific publications and research data are free-of-charge in digital form and can be accessed easily. In contrast, readers usually have to pay for the content that they wish to read when using old publication frameworks. This means that only individuals or institutions who pay have access. This is why we sometimes call this closed access. One advantage of the open access model is that one has unrestricted access to research findings. This is available for both the global scientific community and the interested public. Thus, the open access model ensures a broad scope of readers. Another difference is that with the traditional publishing model, the usage rights of the published material are usually passed on to the publishing house, whilst the authors only grant publishing houses very elementary usage rights with open access. For example, if I wish to use part of an article that was published in a closed access journal, I need to first get permission from the journal. In comparison, open access publications often use creative commons licenses (CC licenses), which make it easy for users to share, use, and expand on the original work. The texts that are to be published should of course undergo a quality assurance process. That is usually a peer-review, where experts judge the submitted work.
What do gold and green open access mean?
A distinction is mainly made between two open access types: On the one hand, the initial publishing can be carried out as open access – typically as a publishing house publication. This is termed gold open access. On the other hand, publications that have already been published by a publishing house can be made available as an open access document at a later point in time – thus secondary publishing. This strategy is green open access. The SuUB supports both types. For the past ten years, the library has provided a publication fund from which scientists from the University of Bremen can receive the open access fees that they have paid to publishing houses. Since 2019, the fund has been open for all universities in Bremen State. With the creation of my role, the University of Bremen and the SuUB are showing that green open access also needs to be promoted more in order to improve the global visibility of Bremen publications. There are currently two projects on this topic: We are saving the secondary publications from the high profile area of social sciences and MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Science at the University of Bremen on the media document server. This will make them more visible and usable in a more sustainable way.
What advantages come with open access publications and specifically both gold and green open access?
Open access publishing has many advantages for researchers: For example, publication is quicker and you can actively take part in current debates. There is also the opportunity to network within a broad community, as the research findings are available worldwide. Open access publications have a great reach. Generally, it also strengthens societal dialogue as citizens and journalists have access to the knowledge.
Gold open access publications profit from publication funds. As they can be found, used, and shared far more easily across the world, green and gold open access publications elevate both the reputation and reading and citation rates of the authors. Open access is actually also often a criterion for funding from national and international third party funding providers, such as the German Research Foundation (DFG) or the European Union (EU). Regardless of what decisions authors make and which path they take, the SuUB can provide support and advice for all decisions.
What should one be aware of when publishing work?
As is the case for all publications in online journals, you should be careful to only publish with serious houses and not with so-called predatory publishers. Such predatory houses are financed by publications fees that are paid by authors of the submitted papers. The scientific relevance of the journal and standards of good scientific practice are, however, only feigned. There is neither a quality control process via peer-review, nor are the articles referenced in relevant subject-specific databases and are therefore only able to be found using general search engines and are not recognized by the expert community. Moreover, the permanent availability of the predatory publisher’s website is also not sufficiently guaranteed, If the operating of an online platform is stopped, articles can disappear overnight.
How is it possible to recognize predatory journals?
That is the one million-euro question. As there are over 100,000 scientific e-journals and new ones are appearing all the time, it is often difficult to recognize them. That is why recommend carrying out a check with Think.Check.Submit. So-called positive lists also function as a first place of contact. For example, is the journal featured in a well-known citation database or included in the Directory of Open Access Journals? It is also possible to check negative lists, e.g. Stop Predatory Journals. Another good tip is to ask your own specialist community – does anyone know the reviewers and editors and have other researchers from the community published with them? Those are a few starting points. More information can be found on our website. Additionally, we are also putting together a checklist for the assessment of dubious journals for our Bremen authors, which will surely help in the decision-making process.
How does your predatory publishing consultation service work?
The whole publication team here at the SuUB is available for questions concerning predatory publishing. The best way to contact us is via E-Mail. Researchers can also turn to the ombudsperson named by the university. They provide confidential advice prior to publishing or in cases where publishing by a dubious house has already taken place.
SuUB Open Access in Bremen
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Lydia Pryce-Jones has been the project leader of the Green Open Access / Secondary Publishing project at the SuUB since the end of 2020. Prior to this role, she completed a two-year library traineeship at the SuUB and the Bavarian Library Academy. From 2011 to 2018, she was a librarian at the Taylor Institution Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford (Great Britain). She completed her magister degree in communication and media science and English in 2010 at Leipzig University and the British University of Leicester.