This section of RECOLECTA Frequently Asked Questions is loosely based on the Frequently Asked Questions or FAQs of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI).

1. What does BOAI mean by "Open Access"?

Here is the definition of "Open Access" from the BOAI: "By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."

2. How is Open Access put into practice?

There are several ways of putting Open Access into practice: The so-called green route involves the filing of authorized versions of works in Open Access repositories –these may be institutional or thematic- whereas the gold route involves the publication of the work in an Open Access journal which offers it free of charge on the internet from a publisher’s website. Archiving in repositories can be done by the author (self-archiving) or by support services such as their associated library (delegated archiving). 

3. What kind of jobs can be offered in Open Access?

The publication type referred when you mention Open Access are usually the research articles, and applies them primarily the distinction between green and gold route mentioned in the previous question, about the possibility that the author has to disseminate in Open Access their articles in repositories or Open Access journals. However, there are many other types of documents that can be offered in Open Access, usually from repositories: conference papers, grey literature, theses, graduation projects or teaching materials among others.

Usually each institutional repository has its own policy related to the types of documents that accepts, so that the most appropriate procedure for determining whether or not a repository accepts certain job is asking to the repository staff.

4. At what point during the publication process can Open Access be offered to a research paper?

The moment at which a work can be offered in Open Access depends both on the wishes of its authors and the permissions given by the editor.

Authors’ behaviour when choosing the moment to offer their work in open access (and therefore choose which version is offered freely) depends on which discipline they come from. Authors of physics and mathematics, for example, tend to publish the first version of their paper in Open Access before it is peer-reviewed (a version known as the ‘pre-print’), due to the speed with which their scientific field advances and the tradition of online peer reviews by the community as a whole. In fact, the first Open Access repository, arXiv, was set up in 1991 as a thematic platform so that physicists and mathematicians could share their work online with their peers and thereby speed up progress in their disciplines.

In other areas however, the publication of pre-prints which could contain mistakes is not contemplated, instead Open Access is offered to the version of the paper after the peer review (known as the final manuscript or 'post-print' version).

Finally, sometimes Open Access can be offered to the final version of the paper as it has been published by the editor. This version, known as ‘Publisher PDF’ or ‘Publisher’s final version’ is rarely offered in Open Access due to publisher’s restrictions for dissemination. There is a directory known as SHERPA RoMEO (available in Spanish) in which the publishers define their permissions policies for the archiving of the different versions of a paper in an Open Access repository (see, for example, the list of publishers who permit the archiving of final versions of works in Open Access repositories).

5. How and why did the Open Access initiative arise?

Open Access arose mainly as a consequence of the unsustainable course taken by the prices of subscriptions to scientific journals at the end of the 20th Century, with the resulting strain on the budgets of the libraries of universities and research centres, which found it difficult to guarantee access to the publications required by their researchers. Given these circumstances, researchers, libraries, public institutions and administrations and other interested parties held a series of meetings and conferences to look at alternative models for scientific communication to relieve the burden on public funds. The first of these was the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) held in December 2002, followed by the Bethesda Meeting on Open Access Publishing in April 2003 in Maryland, USA and the Berlin Conference in October 2003 at the Max Plank Society, which culminated in the founding document, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access. Thus people talk of the three B’s of Open Access, which laid the basis of the movement which ten years on has become consolidated as a sustainable alternative in the area of access to scientific and academic literature.

6. What differentiates the Open Access movement from other initiatives to make different classes of digital content freely available to users?

As the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) indicates, the Open Access movement is exclusive in its area of application to scientific and academic literature and on its emphasis on obtaining the prior consent of the author. The BOAI “concentrates specifically on peer-reviewed research literature, and does not apply to software, music, films or any other area”.

7. Is Open Access compatible with copyright?

Yes. Copyright law gives the copyright holder the right to make access open or restricted. The open access movement attempts to keep copyright in the hands of the authors or institutions that will consent to make access open.

8. Must users ask the author (or copyright holder) for consent every time they wish to make or distribute a copy?

No. The author's consent to Open Access for a given article is manifested by self-archiving the article in an open-access archive, by publishing it in an open-access journal, or by some explicit statement attached to the article. Open-access archives and journals will help readers by making clear that they offer Open Access to all their contents, and they will respect authors by offering Open Access only to the works for which their authors have consented to Open Access. However, if a copyrighted work is on the internet but not in such an archive or journal, and there is no other indication of the copyright holder's wishes, then users should seek permission for any copying that would exceed fair use.

9. Is Open Access compatible with peer review?

Yes. The Open Access movement seeks access for peer-reviewed literature. The only exception is for preprints, which are put online prior to peer review but which are intended for peer-reviewed journals at a later stage in their evolution.

Peer review is medium-independent, as necessary for online journals as for print journals, and no more difficult.

Self-publishing to the internet, which bypasses peer review, is not the kind of access that Open Access movement seeks or endorses.

10. Is Open Access compatible with print?

Yes. Open Access is online access, but it does not exclude print access to the same works. Open Access is free of charge to readers, but it does not exclude priced access to print versions of the same works (because print editions are expensive to produce, they tend to be priced rather than free). 

Open Access does not exclude printouts by users or print archives for security and long-term preservation. For some publishers, print will exclude Open Access, but the reverse need never occur.

11. Could Open Access represent a threat to the quality of the research disseminated?

This is an argument which is used frequently in academic and research circles to question Open Access. However, suffice it to say that Open Access dissemination is conducted rigorously to prevent this. On the one hand, Open Access journals are becoming increasingly consolidated as prestigious instruments for the dissemination of research, with a large number of titles available with numerous impact factors. In terms of Open Access repositories, an unequivocal identification of the class of paper which is being disseminated (for example, ‘post-print’ to identify a peer-reviewed journal article) is sufficient for quality production to be easily recoverable.

12. What are the effects of Open Access in terms of regulations and/or legislation?

As a result of the support of institutions and administrations for Open Access, these often adopt specific policies designed to encourage its adoption by research personnel. These Open Access mandates are institutional declarations in which an organisation or research funding body (generally public) state that the findings of research resulting from projects funded by them must be published in Open Access.

The adoption of Open Access policies by institutions is often related to the need to cover costs associated to the publication in Open Access as one more part of the funding of research activity.

When the body which adopts Open Access policies is a public administration, mandates may reach the category of legal instruments. Thus, the recent Law on Science in Spain or the Proposed Law on Open Access in Argentina include specific sections covering Open Access publication. Article 37.2 of Spanish Law says the following: “Research personnel whose research activity is financed mainly with funds from the General State Budgets shall publish a digital version of the final version of the contents which have been accepted for publication in serial or periodical research publications, as soon as is possible, but no longer than twelve months after the official date of publication”.

13. How do I know if a specific publication is affected by a mandate?

Information about whether the research results of a project are subject to any publication requirement in Open Access should be provided by the funding body at the time of the concession. However, the best way of confirming this is to consult with the personnel of the Open Access institutional repository of each university or research centre, or, failing this, with the library. Repositories often publish a résumé of the mandates which affect the authors of the institution to which they provide a service – see for example the page ‘Organismos financiadores’ [Funding bodies] of the institutional e-archive of the Carlos III University of Madrid. Finally, the Melibea directory includes all the Open Access policies adopted by institutions and organisations throughout the world.

14. Are Open Access journals solid in terms of prestige?

The article “Open Access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact” published by Bo-Christer Björk and David Solomon in BMC Medicine (IF 6.04) in July 2012 says in its conclusions that “Open Access journals indexed in the Web of Science and/or Scopus are nearing the levels of impact and scientific quality of subscription journals, particularly in the area of biomedicine and journals financed with article processing charges paid by authors”.

Given that the Open Access movement is so recent, the process of making Open Access journals of prestige available to the scientific community is still at a stage of consolidation in all disciplines. However, there are already a large number with numerous impact factors, particularly in the area of biomedicine (see the list of more than 100 titles of BioMed Central) and the process is gathering pace with the increasing number of Open Access policies adopted by institutions and funding bodies.

15. What is a hybrid Open Access journal?

In the dichotomy between Open Access journals and subscription journals, hybrid journals are half way between the two. A hybrid journal is the result of the decision of the publisher of a subscription journal to offer Open Access to some of its articles after the payment of the corresponding article processing charges by their authors. This way authors can benefit from the advantages in terms of visibility and an increase in the citations associated to the publication in Open Access without abandoning their traditional environment of publication in closed journals. However, financial considerations make it advisable to consult with the administrator of the repository the different options for offering Open Access to a paper before opting for a hybrid journal.

16. How can I find out which Open Access repositories are available for my publications?

Generally, there will be an institutional repository (that of the university or research centre to which the author is associated) and one or several thematic or other repositories. The safest way of finding out is to consult with the administration of the institutional repository or with the library, which as a norm will also offer a delegated filing service for depositing the work.

17. Can I get any support for archiving my publications?

As the previous point indicates, institutional repositories normally have a delegated filing service for depositing the works whose authors request this. In contrast, thematic repositories normally require direct deposit by the authors, but personnel from the institutional repository will be able to provide guidelines on the procedure to be followed and about the appropriate version of the paper to be deposited.

18. Can papers be published directly in an institutional repository instead of in a journal?

As we mentioned in question 8, the aim of the Open Access movement is not to do away with the peer-review process which guarantees the quality of a scientific publication a priori. In turn, neither has the Open Access repository been conceived as a tool to replace the formal process of scientific publication. Thus, although the workflow of depositing papers in the institutional repository often allows authors to deposit any contribution they see fit, papers which have not been subjected to the peer-review process must be clearly labelled as pre-prints, outreach material, teaching material or whatever corresponds in each case.

19. Might it be possible to get information on publications deposited just one single time on one single platform?

This is an objective shared by authors and managers of scientific information, and the most recent developments in the area of Open Access are aimed at achieving that through system interoperability. Institutional repositories have for some years been experimenting with a process of gradual integration with management systems of institutional scientific information which should lead to this objective being reached as the process is consolidated.

20. What perspectives are there for the publication in Open Access of a paper to be incorporated into the evaluation criteria of scientific activity?

Taking into consideration publication in Open Access as an evaluation criterion of scientific activity is a very recent development, the product of the growing importance which evaluating bodies attribute to the visibility and impact of science in society. As a result, there are already preliminary initiatives at an institutional and national level in several countries which indicate that this is a line which will undergo further development in coming years. Thus, we could mention as an example of an institutional initiative the decision of the University of Liège to take into account for evaluation purposes for processes of internal promotion only those works which are available in their Open Access repository ORBi. In turn, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is studying the ideal procedure to recognise only those works which are available in Open Access in the next national assessment programme of scientific activity in 2020 (REF2020).