Open Access Does NOT equal You, the Author, Paying

Posted on October 20, 2014


Open Access hurts young scholars, people from poor countries, people not working in Universities, and those in poor disciplines, like Archaeology, etc. etc. etc. because they can’t afford paying $2,000, $3,000, $10,000 to get published in OA publications.

I have my suspicions about how this rumor got started. Critics of Open Access, like Jeffrey Beall, mention some of these issues in tirades* against Open Access. But, probably 99% of people who publish in scholarly journals do not actually follow the debate about scholarly publishing. I highly suspect that most of you feel this way because you have tried to publish with Springer, Elsevier, Wiley, etc. and have gone through their automatic system that asks you if you want to have your article made Open Access for only $6,000. Which makes their offer of color printing a steal at only $1000 extra.

If you have had this experience I would be surprised that you don’t view Open Access as a scam to fleece you out of your hard earned research money- or if your are an independent scholar, your lunch/rent money.

“There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.” ― Benjamin Disraeli

It is Open Access Week and I am back to my series on publishing in Archaeology so I thought I would tackle some of the issues surrounding Open Access publishing in Archaeology and in the World. First up is the misconception that Open Access means you pay and pay a lot.

‘Gold open-access is the predominant open-access model’- Beall

In case you are not aware, Gold Open Access is when the author pays to have their work made Open Access. I asked Beall about where he got the data to back up such a statement but there was no response**. Though the data out there says that actually most Open Access publishers do not charge authors anything, as in 0$, 0£ to publish. A quick look at the Directory of Open Access Journals finds that 6,444 journals DON’T charge you to publish vs. 3,065 that do charge. That is a 2 to 1 ratio of journals not charging anyone.

Archaeology Does Not Charge

I can actually count on my hands the number of Open Access Journals that run an author pays model in Archaeology- Internet Archaeology, STAR, and journals at Ubiqity Press. There are a few other journals out there but they tend to be run by disreputable publishers and are basically scams. I have a list of 200+ places you can publish your work and it would be free. It gets a bit fuzzy in that some of these places don’t have Creative Commons licenses or rolling walls (free access after a year or two) so not OA in some people’s eyes. But, there are literally hundreds of places to publish in Archaeology where it costs you and the readers nothing.

They Charge But Do They Really?

Famously, PLOS ONE, the mega Open Access Journal, waves fees if requested. Here is what Internet Archaeology has to say about the issue of affording fees-

‘All proposals are assessed purely on their academic quality. The decision to publish an article in Internet Archaeology is wholly independent of payment or ability to pay. However where publication costs can be covered by your research sponsor, we appreciate your assistance in applying for these costs (also called APCs). Waivers are possible and considered on a case-by-case basis.’

Reputable OA publishers will waive fees if you can not afford them. I love the work that Internet Archaeology does and would try my hardest to find funds to support their work. However, that system is based scholarly comradery and not exhortation.

They Charge But How Much Really?

Even if you can get a waiver there are many journals that are very reasonable in fees. From STAR

‘Members of the Society for Archaeological Sciences receive full waiver of Article Publication Charges as a benefit of their membership.’

You know how much membership in SAS is? $20 unwaged. You could get the student or retired members discount of $15. Yes, for $15 you can get published Open Access and receive the SAS newsletter, pretty great deal. I know many archaeologists that spend that much money in 30 seconds at the bar.

Something to Think About…

There is no denying that there are publishers that use extortion tactics to get you to pay for Open Access i.e. you can’t publish OA with us unless you pay $5,000. However, the majority of Open Access journals don’t charge you. When they do many offer waivers (IA or PLOS ONE or the many others) and if even if you have to pay most of the fees are very reasonable. Seriously, $20 and you get the SAS bulletin, is a great deal. In some cases this money is go to support publishers doing innovative work, like IA. I hope I have convinced you that the majority of OA publishing is not about extorting $10,000 from researchers that could use that money for … well, research.

Prestige, Prestige, Prestige

Yes, I realise that a common perception is that the people charging $6,000 for OA, control the “prestigious” journals  but that is not actually true, but for another post. One corrected misconception at a time.


* Not sure that is the right word but it certainly was not a scholarly analysis of Open Access. I think the wikipedia page describes it best- “In December 2013, Beall published a comment in tripleC, an open access journal, in which he articulated his criticism of open access publishing in general.[4] He portrays open access publishing as an “anti-corporatist movement” whose advocates pursue the goal of “kill[ing] off the for-profit publishers and mak[ing] scholarly publishing a cooperative and socialistic enterprise”. Further, he considers that the “open access movement is a Euro-dominant one, a neo-colonial attempt to cast scholarly communication policy according to the aspirations of a cliquish minority of European collectivists”. According to Beall, “the emergence of numerous predatory publishers” has been “a product of the open-access movement”. In a subsequent article published by Joseph Esposito on his blog, Scholarly Kitchen, Esposito commented that “much of what he says seems to me to be correct, but simply overstated and stuffed inside a political wrapper“.

** He answered other comments after I posted mine so he at least say it. Maybe he got busy and forgot to answer?

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