Open Access is an academic publishing model which makes research freely available to read, avoiding subscriptions or paywalls. First articulated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative of 2002, Open Access is transforming a publishing world dominated by multinational corporations and expensive subscription arrangements.
Many Open Access journals are funded by the payment of Article Processing Charges (APCs), while others do not charge for publication, instead funding their operation via organisational subsidies.
Open Access initially took time to become established, facing hostility from commercial publishers and concern from researchers who doubted the peer-review quality of OA journals. However as OA has matured, even established subscription journals have begun to offer a ‘hybrid’ option, where researchers pay APCs to make their work freely available to read in an otherwise closed journal.
Open Access offers a number of benefits. It allows authors to retain copyright and other intellectual property rights over their work, unlike subscription publishing. It allows researchers and ‘citizen scientists’ to access research that was previously beyond their means. It increases the visibility and citation frequency of published research, boosting the careers and reputations of its authors. And it addresses a long-standing inequity of research publishing: that publicly-funded research should be available to the public funding it.
Green and Gold
There are two main formats for Open Access publishing. "Green" OA refers to the archiving (or self-archiving) in a repository of the corrected, peer-reviewed draft of an article which the author receives prior to final formatting and publication. "Gold" OA by contrast is the immediate universal availability of an article following payment of an APC.
In recent years Open Access has expanded to include the related concepts of Open Data and Open Research. According to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,
“The concept of open data is about making the data held by these public service bodies available and easily accessible online, for reuse and redistribution… The positive impacts of open data are wide-ranging and cover political, social and economic spheres. These can range from improving transparency and efficiency of government, potential for business innovation and a vast array of social and personal benefits.”
Open data involves making available both the large datasets held by public bodies (with obvious exceptions for reasons of privacy and commercial sensitivity) and the data gathered or generated by researchers in the course of their work. By also including any software or protocols used in the research, we move from Open Data to Open Research. OR allows for greater validation and reproducibility of research, and potentially faster scientific progress.
A coalition of European research funders, cOAlition S, has produced a plan (“Plan S”) for all scientific scholarly output to be published in an OR forum by the start of 2021. Science Foundation Ireland is a member of cOAlition S. In July 2019 the National Open Research Forum (NORF) published a framework document outlining the technological and regulatory requirements to make OR a reality.
The National Health Library and Knowledge Service offers a range of resources and advice on aspects of scholarly communication, enabling researchers to navigate the pitfalls of the research publication process.
Repositories: repositories are long-term storage facilities for research. Unlike websites they allow for stable preservation of research and assign persistent identifiers that allow items to be uniquely located and described. They also function as a ‘shop window’ for published research, increasing its visibility. Most research-producing institutions have a repository – the HSE’s repository is Lenus, managed by the NHLKS.
Copyright / Intellectual Property: One of the benefits of Open Research is that it allows authors to retain control of their work, and the conditions under which they make it available. Conversely, authors publishing in a non-OR forum who make their research available online (e.g. on Researchgate) are often violating copyright law in doing so. The NHLKS offers advice to researchers on copyright issues, so that they can stay within the law. The Sherpa / RoMEO website also enables authors to check the Open Access policy of a journal to see if it meets the requirements of Plan S.
Predatory journals: the rise of OA journals funded by Article Processing Charges (APCs) has inevitably led to a form of online scam known as predatory publishing. Predatory journals set up websites purporting to publish peer-reviewed OA journals. In reality they provide no such peer review, and exist only to take money from unsuspecting researchers. Predatory journals are not just a waste of money, however. A researcher’s reputation can be damaged by having their research published in a predatory journal, and they will be unable to publish the research elsewhere.
Many people have compiled lists of predatory journals to alert researchers to the dangers they pose, but such lists are of dubious value. Disagreement exists over what constitutes ‘predatory’ as opposed to just low quality, and some predatory publishers attempt to evade detection by taking over legitimate journals to use as ‘front’ operations.
So how can a researcher ‘stay safe’ online? A number of tools are available to guide you through the journal evaluation process:
Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ): a regularly updated list of Open Access journals which meet an agreed set of quality criteria.
ThinkCheckSubmit: a site that helps researchers choose the right journal for their research, and to assess its trustworthiness.
Sherpa / RoMEO: this site allows you to check the Open Access policy of a journal.
The 2019 HSE Open Access Research Awards were presented in Dr Steevens' Hospital, Dublin on Wednesday 4th December 2019. The overall winner was Des Crowley and colleagues, for their paper "Evaluating peer-supported screening as a hepatitis C case-finding model in prisoners".
The external judge of the awards, Prof. Jonathan Drennan, paid tribute to the study, which he hailed as an example of how this year's entries had highlighted underserved and neglected groups in society.
This full list of awards is as follows:
Des Crowley and colleagues: “Evaluating peer-supported screening as a hepatitis C case-finding model in prisoners”.
Acute Hospitals category:
George Shorten, Karthikeyan Srinivasan and colleagues: “Proficiency-based progression training: an ‘end to end’ model for decreasing error applied to achievement of effective epidural analgesia during labour: a randomised control study”.
Clinical Strategy and Programmes category:
Ide Delargy and colleagues: “Twenty years of the methadone treatment protocol in Ireland: reflections on the role of general practice”.
Primary Care category:
Conor Judge and colleagues: “Aspirin for primary prevention of stroke in individuals without cardiovascular disease—A meta-analysis”.
Mental Health category:
Quality Improvement category:
Daniela Rohde and colleagues: “Cognitive impairment and medication adherence post-stroke: A five-year follow-up of the ASPIRE-S cohort”.
Social Care category:
Natalie Hession and colleagues: “Being “Mindful” of Dignity in Dying: Developing Awareness, Fostering a Psychological Understanding, and Supporting Dignified Endings-To-Life”.
Health and Wellbeing category:
Overall winner Des Crowley with the HSE's Director of
Research, Dr Ana Terrés
The HSE is very much to the fore in advocating Open Access in Ireland. Its 2013 statement notes that the organisation "is committed to sharing the findings of its research as widely as possible to enhance its use and its impact on the population it serves."
National Health Library & Knowledge Service. Health Service Executive. Dr. Steevens' Hospital, Dublin 8. Tel: 01-6352555/8. Email: email@example.com