Open Access publishing

Open Access is a publishing model that provides different types of academic research online at no cost to the reader. It’s a constantly evolving mechanism, which could radically transform the academy and academic publishing. Zed Books offers a variety of Open Access models and is committed to promoting openness, inclusion and diversity within academia.

The Open Access movement aims to make academic research, in the form of peer reviewed journal articles and monographs, freely available online as soon as possible. Online access to these works then, in turn, allows for the greatest visibility, discoverability and circulation benefiting researchers, students, academics, practitioners and institutions.

Open Access (OA) publishing so far has primarily been dominated by scientific OA journals. However the landscape is quickly and continually evolving and new, innovative publishing routes for OA monographs are emerging, making OA monographs a growing format.

These developments have allowed Open Access to gain traction and become a more common way for academics to publish their work, regardless of academic discipline.

Understanding Open Access

Open Access has the potential to radically change the world of academia. Keep reading to find out about some of the emerging trends, challenges and opportunities presented by Open Access.

Types of Open Access

Open Access is a continually evolving mechanism, with developments occurring across formats and disciplines. For example, the number of hybrid OA journals globally is quickly increasing. There are also changes happening with online archiving as well as publishing models and charges.

The most common types of OA model, for both journals and monographs, are the green OA model and gold OA model. However, there are also options like platinum and bronze. Open Access cannot be a one size fits all model for many reasons. We believe that academic publishers must provide flexible options.

Journals vs Monographs

Open Access databases typically span two types of resources: academic journals and monographs.

Open Access Journals

OA Journals can be found through the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and have traditionally had closer links with Open Access. As the number of journals immediately available on Open Access has increased, there’s been a knock-on effect on publishing processing charges and models.

Types of Open Access Journals

Open Access Journals are typically available in three formats:

  • Traditional OA journals

    Journals created specifically for Open Access publication. These journals use a CC attribution license, and researchers retain the copyright.

  • Hybrid OA journals

    Only some of the articles from the journal are available on Open Access, while others are only accessible with a fee.

  • Delayed OA journals

    These journals tend to charge a subscription fee to institution libraries and are only available as Open Access after an embargo period following publication. Embargos can last from a few months to over two years.

Open Access Books

Open Access books can be found in the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB). While OA monographs haven’t followed the same development path as OA journals, they’re becoming increasingly popular.

Research from Springer Nature showed that downloads for OA books are seven times higher than monographs published using different methods. Similarly, UCL Press published 80 books on Open Access between 2015 to 2018 and attracted a readership of over 1 million.

Science vs Humanities

Just as research outputs vary across disciplines, so does Open Access publishing.

One of the key arguments for Open Access, is that the results of publicly funded research should be freely available to the public.

Within the sciences this is especially true, as considerably more funding goes into STEM than it does into HSS research. Consequently, researchers within STEM fields have different requirements of Open Access than academics within the humanities and social sciences. This is why there are currently so many more OA journal models within the sciences.

Monographs, on the other hand, are considered a more important research output within the arts and humanities. All Open Access journals are subject to Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF2021). However, we expect monographs will be subject to REF2027/8.

Green vs Gold

Open Access academic publishing falls into three main types: Bronze Open Access, Green Open Access and Gold Open Access.

  • Bronze

    Bronze open access is one of the most common types of Open Access. With Bronze Open Access, articles and monographs are hosted on a publisher’s website and are sometimes subject to an embargo period. However, these publications don’t allow reuse.

  • Green

    With Green Open Access, articles are available through websites, institutional or subject databases, or on scholarly networks. Researchers can self-archive Green Open Access publications; for example, by releasing their article to the Social Sciences Research Network.  Students, professors and others can gain unlimited, free access to these articles.

    Most Green Open Access, also known as ‘delayed open access’ publications are subject to an embargo period before they’re available to the general public without a fee.

  • Gold

    Gold Open Access makes journal articles and monographs accessible to the general public without an embargo period or restrictions. Readers do not need to pay a fee to gain access and publishers generate revenue by charging authors or institutions a publishing charge or book processing fee.

Platinum and Diamond

Platinum Open Access, also known as Diamond Open Access, makes monographs and journals immediately and freely available. Researchers do not need to pay a publishing charge or book processing fee.

Zed Books offers Platinum Open Access as part of our social and political mission.

Benefits of Open Access

Open Access provides many benefits for researchers, academics and of course wider society. Increasing the availability of academic studies has many positive effects such as wider dissemination of knowledge. It also paves the way for a more collaborative and informed approach to learning and knowledge sharing.

Creative Commons makes it possible for researchers to protect their work, while global initiatives such as Plan S and local drives such as Research Excellence Framework in the UK, aim to ensure the quality and widest dissemination of academic work.

By making high-quality academic texts freely available, students, academics, practitioners and the general public can access important research to improve their educational journey. At Zed Books, we believe that Open Access can have far-reaching positive impacts on the way knowledge is created and shared.

Social benefits

Open Access provides direct benefits to academics and to society — one of the many reasons we support the OA and Creative Commons movements. Some of the benefits of Open Access include:

  • Access to the latest and most relevant research

    Students, academics and general readers can immediately access new research as soon as it’s published. So, rather than relying only on the information available from their institution students and academics can study and research using the most relevant and up-to-date information.

  • Encouraging further research

    Open Access expands researchers available resources leading to better, more relevant and more expanding research results.

  • A more level playing field

    Subscription based publication platforms put students from smaller schools at a disadvantage. The rising costs of certain subscriptions means that smaller or less well funded institutions often lack the financial resources to fully support their students’ learning. Open Access can help level the playing field by providing monographs and journals for free.

Individual benefits

With Open Access, individual researchers can reach a wider audience and overcome certain barriers associated with more traditional digital academic publishing models.

  • Unique research

    As a researcher, it’s important to create work that’s totally unique and contributes to the existing body of texts. This is much harder to achieve without being able to see what’s already available. Open Access helps researchers avoid duplication by expanding their existing search options and databases.

  • Enhanced value

    We believe that research should be widely shared. As a digital and relatively low-cost option, Open Access makes it easier to overcome price barriers and circulate research across the globe.

  • Impact factor & citations

    Open Access articles often have a greater impact than articles published on subscription only platforms. This is probably because OA journals and monographs have higher visibility and are accessible from any location making it easier and more likely that other academics will incorporate and cite the work.

Challenges of Open Access

Open Access, however, isn’t perfect. For example, there’s controversy around the implementation of Plan S as well as the economic impact OA models might have on academic publishing, and by extension on the contribution made by the creative industries to the broader economy. Challenges with Open Access fall into three categories: financial, cultural and third-party implications.

We’ll explore each of these issues in turn to hopefully provide some transparency around some of the current problems with OA. And with greater awareness around its disadvantages, we will hopefully be able to find a way forward so OA can reach its full potential.

It is worth noting that just the idea of Open Access, let alone its implementation, assumes access to the internet, which is not a universal privilege.

Funding research publications

One of the key challenges facing the Open Access movement is how to fund publication fees and cover publication costs.

Unlike subscription based models, most Open Access platforms provide texts at no cost to the reader. As a result, publishers can only cover business expenses by placing book processing charges (BPCs) or article publishing charges (APCs) on the researcher. The researcher then has to rely on their institutions to fund publications.

BPCs are often considered a barrier to publishing on Open Access as researchers can struggle to find funding, especially within the arts, humanities and social sciences. If financial support is only available through higher education institutions, it may limit publications to authors from wealthier institutions or backgrounds. This is of course hugely problematic.

Similarly, researchers and authors from developing or emerging nations might not have the available resources to publish their work. And, as a result, OA becomes skewed towards wealthier and Western institutions.

A number of international organisations are actively trying to find new and different ways to support researchers and help them cover BPCs and APCs. The PLOS Institutional Account Program provides a comprehensive directory of available funding for those looking for help with publishing expenses.

Diversity and inclusion

OA models must consider the broader diversity issues within the academy.

Research from Advance HE shows that in 2018, out of 19,000 professors in the UK, there were only 25 black women and 90 black men. OA models must consider broader diversity issues within the academy. Otherwise, OA models risk exaggerate these issues.

The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a breakdown of Open Access journals by country. Top leaders include countries like the United States with 1,312, Brazil (843), United Kingdom (587) and India (518). Currently, Turkey, Colombia and Iran publish more journals than France, however few OA journals from developing nations are internationally recognised.

To truly reach its full potential, OA needs to incorporate a wide range of voices and opinions. Research outputs must come from a variety of academics — not just the researchers who can afford it.

Open Access at Zed Books

Here at Zed Books we support both the Open Access and Creative Commons movements, as well as other changes occurring across the academic publishing landscape. As such, we offer a variety of publishing models, including Open Access.

Open Access publications are subject to the same publishing standards and workflows as our traditionally published books, however there are some differences in the way Open Access digital editions are distributed. These differences do not affect the quality of the output nor the author’s legal status as copyright holder. All Open Access books undergo the same peer review process.

Green Open Access

Green Open Access is a publishing model that permits publication of an OA book in a digital archive or archives, sometimes also known as digital repositories, after a specific embargo period. These archives can be institutional, such as those owned by a university, or cross-institutional, such as subject or discipline specific repositories provided by other organisations.

Making OA publications available through institutional repositories enables students, academics and researchers at those institutions to access, manage and retain that content.

Here at Zed Books we offer bespoke Green Open Access agreements. If you are interested in publishing with us under a green OA model, please let us know as part of your book proposal submission.

Gold Open Access

Gold Open Access is a publishing model that makes an OA book immediately available for free. This means that an eBook edition is available for free, and there is no restriction on where and how that eBook can be shared or stored.

Here at Zed Books we offer bespoke Gold Open Access agreements. If you are interested in publishing with us under a gold OA model, please let us know as part of your book proposal submission.

Platinum Open Acess

We are open to publishing and have published books under a Creative Commons license, separate to Open Access. In these instances there is no BPC.

Book processing charges

In order to cover publication costs, each of our Open Access models carries a book processing change (BPC). We determine a book processing charge (BPC) firstly by considering our fixed costs, our cost of sales and the number of books and types of formats we publish in a given year. Then we consider the type of manuscript and the services required to maximise the publication’s impact. It is worth noting that the BPC must cover management, operational and infrastructure costs because there is no institution, such as a university, behind Zed Books that absorbs them.

As an internationally focussed publisher with a social and political mission, we do not currently offer a flat fee structure for our Open Access publishing. Each project will be considered on a case by case basis and in addition to the above considerations, we will take into account the background and geographic location of the author/research subjects, the levels of funding available for such OA publications, as well as the subject matter.

Get in touch with our editorial department to discuss any potential projects and to find out how Zed Books can support them.

Waivers and discounts

In order to help academics and institutions we offer generous discount policies. This is especially the case regarding research conducted by individuals or institutions based in the global South. We are also open to publishing and have published books under a Creative Commons license, separate to Open Access.

Funding Open Access publication fees

Publication fees can be an issue for researchers, especially if their institution is unwilling or unable to provide funding. Thankfully, several organisations, foundations and government agencies support researchers to publish their work through Open Access.

The PLOS Institutional Account Program provides a comprehensive database of institutions and funders able to cover BPCs and APCs. View Open Access funding options at PLOS.

Plan S compliance

At Zed Books, our OA offering includes depositing publications in the DOAB, but there are a number of requirements stipulated as a part of Plan S.

Plan S requires that all research funded by members of cOAlition S be freely accessible immediately after publication and does not allow for an embargo period. They also require texts to be permanently available under open licenses that permit re-use for any purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship.

Creative Commons licenses (CC)2 is recommended for such publications and will by default require the CC BY Attribution 4.0 license.

You can find more information about Plan S’ compliance strategy and requirements here.

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