Scholarly Impact Challenge: Day 3: Open Access

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In traditional publishing schemes, university libraries purchase subscriptions to journals, and only affiliates of that university can access subscribed content. Open Access publishing flips this model and provides free access to articles to any reader in the world, and asks authors to find funding to ensure their outputs are published. Many government funding agencies are requiring or recommending that articles, data sets, and other research outputs are published in Open Access methods.

What is Open Access?

"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Open Access is the needed modern update for the communication of research that fully utilizes the Internet for what it was originally built to do—accelerate research." (SPARC)

  • Open Access benefits the public because it makes research available without a subscription or other costs.
  • Open Access benefits the researcher (you) by expanding readership, increasing citations, and circulating research on social media or other channels.
  • Public Access Mandates: Government mandates require peer-reviewed publications and digital data from federally funded scientific research be made freely available to the public.

Types of Open Access (OA) Publishing

  • Gold: when you publish an article in a journal that makes all articles openly available immediately. Some Gold journals require payments of article processing charges (APCs). Some Gold journals do not require fees. The clue to a Gold journal is, everything is open access, and if APCs are required, they are required for all authors. As the author, you are responsible for paying these fees when you submit a manuscript.
  • Green: when you publish in a traditional journal and then upload a copy of your article to your personal website or institutional repository.
  • Hybrid:. A hybrid journal sells subscriptions and also alllows authors to decide to make individual articles Open Access. To do this, the author pays a fee when submitting the manuscript, and the publisher agrees to make this single article Open Access once accepted. As the author, you are responsible for deciding if you need to pay fees to publish open access, and then paying these fees when you submit a manuscript.

Diagram of the three types of open access publishing


How do I choose which model to use?
Typically, journals decide and inform you which models they will use. This information can be found on their "copyright" or "about us" pages. The Directory of Open Access Journals also includes information about many open access journals, and can be a good place to start looking for a journal that uses one of these models.

In addition to being aware of your preferred open access model, you will have constraints that might mean you must or cannot publish using some of these models. For example, if you are publishing research results funded by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant as a research article, you are required to make your article text public through PubMedCentral no less than 12 months after publication. Gold, Green, and Hybrid models would allow this. However, some Gold and Hybrid journals also require authors to pay article processing charges (APCs). If you do not have funding to pay the APC, you would not be able to publish in a journal that charges APCs. Instead, you would need to find a journal that uses Gold model and does not charge APCs, or that follows the Green model where you can self-archive.

Transformative Agreements

The USC Libraries have signed transformative agreements with academic publishers that allow authors to publish using the Gold and Hybrid models of open access. In these agreements, the libraries pay the Article Processing Charges (APCs) on your behalf. Read more about USC Transformative Agreements on the Open Access Research Guide.

How do I use a Transformative Agreement?

It is usually not possible to retroactively apply a transformative agreement : you must know about the agreement and apply it when submitting your manuscript. To do this successfully:

1. Identify a journal in your field that you might publish with, that is covered by a USC agreement.

2. Then, review the Instructions for Submission. The journal will have detailed information about how to apply the transformative agreement: typically, it is bounded by time (the manuscript must be submitted within a specific calendar year); it requires the USC affiliated author to manage the submission process, serve as the corresponding author, and to use a USC email address and mailing address when submitting.

Which publishers have an agreement with USC Libraries?

Explore these links to see more details about the Open Access policies and Transformative Agreements the libraries have created. Not all journals published by these publishers are included in our agreements.

  • American Chemical Society (ACS) - agreement through 2025. ACS publishes >90 journals in all areas and applications of chemistry.
  • Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) - agreement through 2023. >50 journals in many areas of computing and information technology.
  • Cambridge University Press - agreement through 2024. Cambridge publishes >400 journals in all areas of social sciences, humanities, sciences, technology, and health sciences.
  • The Institute of Physics (IOP) - agreement through 2025. IOP publishes >90 journals. It includes journals about physics and all areas of science and technology.
  • Karger - agreement through 2024. Karger publishes >90 journals on health sciences, medicine, and basic sciences relating to health care.
  • PLOS (Public Library of Science)  agreement through 2024. Publishes 12 journals in all areas of science.
  • The Royal Society  agreement for 2023. 11 journals on all areas of science.
  • Springer -  agreement through 2024. Publishes >2000 journals in all areas of social sciences, humanities, sciences, technology,  medicine, and health sciences.
  • Wiley - agreement through 2023. Publishes >1200 journals in all areas of social sciences, humanities, sciences, technology,  medicine, and health sciences.

The Basic Challenge

Part 1: Find an open access journal related to your field that you might publish in.

1. Go to the Directory of Open Access Journals.

2. Search for a topic or keyword of interest: pharmacy, medical education, or artificial intelligence all work, if you can't think of any.

3. Use the Refine pane on the left side to limit to journals that meet certain criteria that suit your work and constraints: find journals that publish in English; journals without APC fees; and method of peer review used. 

Part 2: Determine if a journal uses Green, Gold, or Hybrid models. It is not always easy to determine which model a journal uses. This information may be included in the Directory of Open Access Journals or it may be on the journal's copyright or author rights pages. Explore the provided links to these three journals. Determine if they use Green, Gold, or Hybrid models of open access publishing. Check the Answers tab for answers about these journal's Open Access models as of October 2023.

Part 2 answers:

a. Public Health Nutrition. On the DOAJ page, it says there are article processing charges, so this is either a Gold or Hybrid journal. On the journal’s copyright page, it clearly states that it is a Gold journal. However, by continuing to read the page, it also allows Green options: as an author you are allowed to archive preprints from this journal in repository of your choice.

b. Journal of Contemporary Pharmacy Practice. On the DOAJ page, it says there are no article processing charges, so this is unlikely to be a hybrid journal. In reviewing the journals’ rights page, it says authors may deposit their final printed manuscript into a repository. This is a Green option for open access. On the journal’s Copyright page, it states that all articles are available for anyone to read, anytime, with no payment: this is a Gold open access journal, too.

c. Gerondontology. This journal is not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. This directory was originally intended to include only completely open access journals using the Gold model, so the lack of inclusion is a clue that this is not Gold. The journal’s own copyright and for authors pages state that this is a hybrid journal: if you choose, you can pay a fee, and your paper will be made open access from the publisher. Or, you can choose to not pay this fee, and your article will visible only to subscribers of this journal.

The Advanced Challenge

1. Find a journal in your field where the USC Libraries could pay for your article processing charges using one of our transformative agreements. Use these links and instructions to view lists of journals covered by the agreements, then sort or browse by title, discipline, or content type to find a journal in your field.

2. Reflect: How could publishing open access increase your research visibility? (For some more ideas about this, review the Wiley Publisher's Open Access benefits page.)

3. Reflect: Would you consider publishing in an open access method? What barriers prevent you from choosing to publish in this way?

4. Optional: save the names of the journal(s) you found, and your responses to the reflection questions. We'll collect these on our finisher's form.

More Information

Want to learn more about open access, article fees, and publishing? Helpful links:

Sherpa Romeo


Creative Commons

Open Access Research Guide

Open Educational Resources Guide

Day 4: Staying Up To Date

The growth of Open Access publishing has also increased the volume of literature published. It's harder than ever to keep track of new publications, and find the specific articles that address your questions and needs. Continue to Day 4: Staying Up To Date to learn about tools you can use to access full-text articles quickly regardless of how you find them, and set up alerts to ensure you're finding relevant, high-quality, new research.