The Argument for Open Access

Publishing as a graduate student is already hard enough: Steeling yourself for inevitable rejection, bolstering yourself to submit again, and, of course, deciding where to submit in the first place. Unfortunately, deciding which journals to submit to is not getting less complicated; it is getting more complicated. In addition to variables such as journal readership, identity, prestige, and rejection rate, you must now consider whether a journal is open access (i.e., whether a journal makes its articles freely available to the public).

For the past several years, academics and academic journals have been having a conversation about who should be able to access scholarly writing and for what price. Here is a rundown of both sides of the discussion.

Academic Journals

Academic journals argue that they add value to the scholarly publication process.

  • High submission rejection rates and the peer review process help to ensure the quality of the scholarship that is ultimately published.
  • Editorial review helps to ensure that scholarship is clear, concise, and targeted.

Academics

Academics argue that the most basic principle of academia is the sharing of scholarship and that academic journals impede that aim by hiding scholarship behind a pay wall that is much too high.

  • So many journals now exist, that even the best research institutions cannot afford to subscribe to them all.
  • Articles and peer review are provided to the journals for free, and the journals have high profit margins while still charging libraries and individuals high subscription fees.
  • Much off the research that is hidden behind these paywalls is publically funded through taxes, but it is not available to the public.

Many researchers have become advocates of open access publishing and many academic publishers have even started open access journals. Open access journals are definitely a type of publication you will submit to and be published in throughout your career. Whether you should start as a grad student, however, depends on your field and your graduate school. Research publication trends in your field and then go to researchers at your institution to determine how important open access publishing is to your fellow researchers. A good guiding rule across most disciplines is to more seriously consider publishing with an open access journal when your research is publically funded.

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