Publishing Open Access can cost a lot of money. Some journals charge up to $6000 for a single article, called an APC or article-processing charge. While researchers themselves rarely actually have to foot these bills, as their institutes of funders pay on their behalf, this sort of ‘pay to publish’ model for Open Access creates a vast layer of financial inequality within an already biased system.
But this doesn’t have to be the case.
If you self-archive your work, either in a preprint server, which are becoming increasingly available, or an institutional repository, or a general platform like Zenodo or Figshare, then you don’t have to pay a penny. Self-archiving is a form of Open Access that is free, easy, and legal.
Here’s a sort of flow chart for you to check what you’re allowed to legally do in terms of self-archiving your research.
Doing this is becoming increasingly important as Open Access policies become more frequent, and tools like Unpaywall are developed to make discovering self-archived papers even easier. If you’ve ever heard the policy term ‘Green Open Access’, then this is what it is all about – self-archiving.
The important thing to note here is how to check journal policies through the Sherpa/Romeo tool, which is quite comprehensive. Some institutional repositories have inbuilt checks based on Sherpa/Romeo too, to make sure that your archiving efforts are journal-compliant. It’s also worth noting the existence of embargo periods, and challenging the need for them.
So self-archiving is low cost in terms of infrastructure, free to authors, and most of all a very simple way to make your entire published record Open Access. All you have to do is upload a PDF of your work, which is where the vast majority of the true research value lies. You can also upload data files alongside this, if needed.
Importantly, this means that researchers, and in particular those who are early-career researchers, can publish in often paywalled journals that they ‘need’ to advance their careers in the current incentive system, and still have risk-free Open Access.
If we self-archive as a research community en masse, several things could be achieved.
- Global Open Access to the research literature will become a reality for a very low cost;
- Subscriptions to publishers for our own content will be largely redundant as everything will be OA already;
- We create the basis for building tools, like Unpaywall, that can leverage the power of massive-scale access;
- We save $billions every year from university libraries that can be reinvested into students and open scholarly infrastructure;
- We make the need for quasi-legal entities like SciHub and ResearchGate to become redundant.