Why we need to do more to making publishing open access the norm

The Source
By: undefined, Sun Oct 18 2020

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For open access (OA) week 2020 we've talked to a number of researchers from Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden who have chosen to publish their work open access. We've discussed the reasons behind their choice, the benefits they have seen for their research and career, and the role that institutions as well as transformative agreements can have in assisting with funding. Here, Dr. Kathryn Francis, Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Psychology at the University of Bradford, shares her thoughts.

This year’s OA week theme is “Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion”. What is the role of OA in addressing equity and inclusion and what more can be done?

Research published OA is available to anyone with an internet connection for free. It means that scientific research is available to more individuals and more diverse audiences, beyond academia and beyond those individuals who can afford to pay for journal subscriptions. This alone goes some way in tackling equity and inclusion issues created by paywalls. However, while I am a strong advocate of the OA movement and see a lot of positive change coming out of it, we could do more to promote OA and make publishing this way the norm in academic circles. It is not enough for OA to be made available, people need to be aware of it and to utilise it. This is why events such as OA week are so important in raising awareness of OA but also creating a set of standards and an inclusive framework that we can build our research practices around.

Can you please tell us a bit more about your research and your published article?

My research examines moral decision-making (both moral judgments and moral behaviours) using Virtual Reality (VR) and other technologies that allow us to simulate making difficult decisions in distressing situations. This publication examines the acute effects of alcohol on affective empathy and subsequent moral decisions. We find that higher alcohol consumption results in impaired affective empathy in terms of how individuals respond to emotional displays although moral decision-making is unaffected. This suggests that factors beyond, or in addition to affective empathy, might influence moral decision-making.

Why did you choose to publish OA? What are the benefits? 

I am a strong advocate of Open Science (Research) principles including OA and open data. I believe that we should maximise dissemination of research findings and support data access and research collaborations between researchers and also with the public. Publishing OA means that more individuals can access my research without facing access costs and often, the research can be accessed a lot faster than would be possible via traditional routes of publication. I've also found that the wider research community can more easily locate my papers if they are in the OA domain which increases the research's visibility and prompts further research in the field. 

What are some of the challenges you face as part of research promotion? What has been the impact of publishing OA on your research and career potentially?

One common criterion for research promotion is research output both in terms of quantity and quality. Promotion committees will also take into account the impact of these research outputs and generating this meaningful and measurable research impact can be a challenge. Publishing OA has helped me to improve the visibility of my research and ensured that it is disseminated to communities beyond the university. This goes some way in supporting the development of research impact. For me, it has also given me the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers and external parties.

Have you published OA before? What has been your experience so far with OA? How easy is it to publish OA? Were there any challenges?

I have published OA before and my experience of publishing OA has been positive. However, there are barriers to publishing OA with journals in that some charge Gold OA article processing charges (APCs) which can be extortionate. To support researchers with APCs, some institutions have memberships, publisher initiatives, or block funds which allow researchers to publish Gold OA for a reduced fee. Of course, it is also possible to make your research publications OA using the Green OA route via an OA repository and most institutions provide their own repositories to support this route now. 

How did you identify funds to publish OA? How easy is it to get funding?

For the present research article, I was able to publish OA as a result of an agreement between my institution and the publisher which means that researchers at member institutions can publish OA in Springer hybrid journals at no cost to them. These initiatives and arrangements between academic publishers and institutions are essential in supporting OA publishing in journals with APCs. Of course, OA funding is also available from many research funders but this is dependent on grant success. Again and importantly, publishing in OA journals is not the only way to provide OA articles and Green OA routes are a great option for disseminating research. 

Do you think OA is important in your subject area and if so why?

For psychological research, which is a fast-moving discipline, publishing OA can support rapid dissemination of research findings which helps to spur research in the area. I think regardless of the discipline or subject area, Open Science principles ensure that the data and research findings reach a diverse audience both within and outside of academia. And this is incredibly important because science should be open for the whole of society.

Why did you choose Springer Nature or the particular journal to publish OA?

Psychopharmacology was a good home for this piece of research in terms of the subject area and the fact that it offered OA (and for free via my institution) made it the ideal choice. Selecting a journal to publish in can be a challenge but it is a case of balancing several factors and for me, OA options always factor into the decision.

What would be your advice to others thinking of publishing OA?

Again and drawing from some of my previous answers, I would challenge researchers who haven't published OA to consider some of the myths about publishing using OA routes. Most importantly, Gold OA is not the only available route and so researchers should always approach their institutions to discuss Green OA options that will allow them to publicly disseminate their research. Secondly and if wanting to publish Gold OA, this does not mean that researchers will need to cover the associated fees themselves. It is worth approaching institutions for support in publishing using this Gold OA route as there may be block funds available or initiatives in place that support the reduction or waivering of APCs. Finally, OA journals are not lower in quality simply because they are OA. The quality of a journal is not determined by its access model or policy but by the research it publishes and its reviewers and editors.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

The more people you can reach with your research, the better. Science should be transparent and reproducible so that the integrity and quality of it can be confirmed. Open Science really has huge benefits for researchers, for research audiences, and for science more broadly.

Dr. Kathryn B. Francis’ article was published OA under the UK Transformative Read and Publish agreement between Springer Nature and Jisc. This agreement means that authors affiliated with participating institutions can publish OA in Springer hybrid journals with their fees covered.

Learn more about open access and open research and discover the options offered at Springer Nature.

About Dr. Kathryn B. Francis

Dr. Kathryn Francis is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Psychology at the University of Bradford, UK. Kathryn has conducted research on moral decision-making using various technologies including Virtual Reality (VR). She has a particular interest in the relationship between moral judgments and moral actions and has published several papers investigating judgment-behaviour discrepancy in the moral domain. Prior to working at the University of Bradford, Kathryn was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Reading, UK and she completed her PhD as part of the Marie-Curie funded "CogNovo" programme at the University of Plymouth, UK.