A new survey of nearly 40,000 scholars across the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences shows that almost 90 percent of them believe open-access journals are good for the research community and the individual researcher. But charges for publishing and the perception that open-access journals are of lower quality than traditional publications deter scholars from the open-access route, according to the Study of Open Access Publishing report, by an international team of researchers.
The survey was done in 2010, and respondents were scholars who had published at least one article in a peer-reviewed journal during the past five years. They were contacted via e-mail, using lists furnished by publishers SAGE, Springer, BioMed Central, Thomson Reuters, and others. Scholars in the humanities were the most favorable toward open-access journals, with more than 90 percent of people in those fields seeing benefits. Researchers in natural sciences like chemistry and physics and engineering were not far behind, with about 80 percent approving.
But scholars also noted they felt there were certain reasons to avoid open-access journals. When asked, 29 percent said they had not published in such journals and gave these reasons:
Reasons Not to Publish in Open-Access Journals
Over all, the biggest barrier was the lack of money to pay the publishing fees asked by open-access journals, followed by the perception that OA journals are not of good quality. Accessibility—which meant getting a paper rejected or not thinking there was a suitable OA journal—was a distant third, and lack of awareness of OA journals was fourth. These were followed by the habit of only publishing in traditional journals, and by plans to publish in an open-access journal “next time.”
Because publishing charges were mentioned as the largest problem, the survey researchers asked scholars who had published at least one open-access article what they had to pay. Just over 50 percent said there was no charge. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 10 percent said they had to pay fees ranging from $1,350 to $4,100.
Just over half of the scholars said their research financing either specifically covered such charges, or they used that money to pay for it. Another 24 percent said their institutions paid, and 12 percent said they had to pay for the charges themselves.
The survey researchers, who were financed by the European Commission, are releasing all the data at the arXiv Web site to ensure the study of open access is openly accessible.