The success of your scientific research can depend greatly on the information you uncover through previously published scholarly articles. But if you’re not careful, the time and money you spend accessing scholarly literature can add up fast.
If you’re like many researchers, you invest a lot of time searching for the most cost-effective way to access the literature you need. But in the current publishing landscape, it can be hard to keep costs down. Obtaining scientific papers through journal subscriptions, for example, has become increasingly difficult. That’s especially true if you’re associated with an institution that has cut back on its scholarly journal subscriptions.
A great way to limit the amount of money you spend on scholarly papers is to source Open Access content. In this post, we’ll share some simple tools and techniques to help simplify the way you find and obtain Open Access content.
But first, let’s take a step back to review the background of Open Access.
Open Access 101 – A Brief History
Prior to the mid-1990s, before the Internet was a thing, most scholarly research papers were published only in print journals. The only way to read those articles was if you (or your institution) had a subscription to the publication.
When the Internet came along, it changed everything, including access to scholarly content. Indeed, it enabled the digitization of scholarly publications—which in turn made it possible to access journal articles online, from any location. Open Access existed from the earliest days of the Internet with platforms like arXiv, but took on a formal mandate with the advent of US legislation that requires NIH-funded research to be posted in a free repository called PubMed Central.
Open Access, in its purest form, allows people to access and re-use scholarly content online for free, as long as the original work is cited. Open Access has evolved to include not only articles, but also digitized book chapters, conference papers, theses, and monographs. Although Open Access content is free to read, the re-use licensing restrictions can get complicated.
The Lowdown on Open Access Colors
Open Access comes in many forms and “colors.” In general, you should be aware of the following three Open Access categories, one having emerged on the scene only recently (and not without controversy):
- Gold Open Access: These articles are published to Open Access journals (and sometimes in Open Access repositories, too). The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) lists nearly 4 million Open Access articles across more than 13,000 Open Access journals. Often, but not always, the business model supporting Gold OA is based on article processing charges (APCs) paid by authors or their funders.
- Green Open Access: These article versions (often author manuscripts prior to final publication edits) are hosted in Open Access repositories or archives. Either the author or their publisher deposits the work into the repository. In some cases, Green Open Access is not considered the version of record, and therefore may not always suit the needs of a researcher.
- Bronze Open Access*: These articles are available for free on publisher hosted websites but are not formally licensed for re-use. This Open Access category has the largest amount of available content on the market, according to those who keep track of this sort of thing. *Note: Some OA advocates do not consider this a valid Open Access category since it does not include re-use rights. Bronze is the most difficult category to consistently identify, because the publisher can make this content freely available or place it behind a paywall at any moment and without warning.
In previous blog posts, we’ve written extensively about the complexities of Open Access and its many categories (which also include Blue, Yellow, White, and Black). If you’re up for a deeper dive, you can read those posts here and here.
Easy Access to Open Access
Thanks to advanced technologies, researchers no longer have to waste time hunting around for Open Access articles. That’s because modern technology offers a variety of Open Access filters that can make the process nearly effortless.
Article Galaxy, Reprints Desk’s research platform, integrates Open Access filters into document order forms by default. As the user completes the order form, any Open Access versions are automatically surfaced. Additionally, within the Article Galaxy Gadget Store, a number of science apps or Gadgets (like the PubMed Searcher Gadget) integrate with document order forms—allowing users to search for articles, filter for Open Access, and place article orders without ever leaving the app interface. Researchers who want to run a quick check on a specific article can use the Open Access Finder Gadget to immediately determine if an Open Access version exists.
Research institutions, which are typically required to follow stricter compliance rules than individual researchers, can use Article Galaxy’s Advanced Open Access compliance wizard to better navigate the fine print of commercial Open Access. More advanced Open Access recognition capabilities, including verification of commercial use compliance with Creative Commons license terms, are available to Article Galaxy Enterprise users.
The moral of this story? In the digital age, researchers who want to spend less money and less time accessing scientific literature, while staying in compliance with usage rights, can do so with the help of modern technology.