What is Open Access? Reddit Users Ask Us Their Toughest Questions

open access

Open access is a big topic in scientific circles, sparking lots of discussion in recent years. The demand for free and open data has never been higher. But how does open access publishing work? In the past 2 years, we’ve expanded our open access outreach, launching several new programs and journals, including:

In the past 2 years, we’ve expanded our open access outreach, launching several new programs and journals, including:

  • ACS Central Science – the ACS’ first fully open access journal – publishing the most exciting and impactful scientific research that highlights the centrality of chemistry – free to read AND free to publish!
  • ACS Author Rewards – a stimulus program worth as much as $60 million in credits to be used by ACS authors over the next 2 years to help purchase of open access options;
  • ACS AuthorChoice –ACS provides various licenses to help authors choose the best option for their needs, along with significant discounts for ACS members and authors at institutions that subscribe to ACS’ All Publications package.
  • ACS Editors’ Choice – A popular program in which ACS journal editors recommend articles that should be made open access, and ACS sponsors one new article into open access every day of the year.
  • ACS Omega – ACS’ second fully open access journal, coming soon, is aimed at publishing technically sound research with a focus on expedited editorial decision making.

On January 26, the ACS’ own Darla Henderson (Assistant Director, Open Access Programs) and Kevin Davies (Vice President, ACS Publications and Publisher at Chemical & Engineering News) sat down with Reddit users for an Ask Me Anything session, where they aimed to answer a host of burning questions about open access on Reddit’s r/Science. Their combined expertise gave the community insight into how publishers handle open access, the issues surrounding OA journals, as well as some career advice.

Below are some highlights of Kevin and Darla’s AMA:

P1percub: So many journals put articles behind a paywall for financial reasons. Here on /r/science we frequently hear the frustration of readers unable to access primary research articles, can you explain a bit the economic/business plan of open access journals vs journals that keep research behind a paywall? How is ACS able to stay in the black and keep research free for readers?

Darla Henderson: Thanks for asking! Open access journals typically operate on a model where the author or their funder pay an article publishing charge (APC) which varies from journal to journal, or by a sponsorship model (either by the publishing organization or by cosponsors, such as with eLife). This is different than a subscription model where the reader or the reader’s institution pays a fee. ACS offers the option for authors or their funder to pay an APC – this option is available to all ACS journals – and the prices start as low as $750. ACS also offers significant discounts to ACS members and to authors at institutions that subscribe to the All Publications package.

open access ACS Author Rewards

Pegleg364: What’s the deal with ACS Omega? Seems a little confusing when it comes out a year or so after Central Science

Kevin Davies: We apologize for any confusion! ACS Omega launches this summer as a fully open access “megajournal.” What do we mean by that? It’s a journal that practices objective peer review, in which papers are judged exclusively on the technical merit of the study, not on subjective reviewer/editor assessments of “significance”, “general interest” etc. as most journals do. (The best known examples of this sort of journal are PLOS ONE, and Scientific Reports.) Many scientists have expressed frustration with the current state of peer review and what they see as unnecessary hurdles or demands put in front of them to publish in a leading journal. ACS Omega will enable chemists around the world to experience a swift and straightforward review process and see their work published promptly if the science is sound. We also anticipate ACS Omega providing a useful outlet for a large number of authors who seek to publish in one of the established ACS journals but are declined. ACS Central Science, which debuted last April, is also fully open access but has very different goals and objectives. Under the editorship of Carolyn Bertozzi (see her Reddit AMA), ACS Central Science is seeking to publish the most impactful and important research across all fields of chemistry, with a premium placed on interdisciplinary research. The editorial selection process is very selective: the journal’s editors will publish no more than about 10-12 articles per month.

Antonia90: What’s your opinion on the fact that open access journals are generally perceived to be of lower quality? What do you think is a good way to address this?

Kevin Davies: It’s a very reasonable question: the reputation of open access publishing has been tarnished by the flood of “predatory” open access publishers who have sought to create vehicles for little reason other than to dupe authors into paying APCs (author publishing charges). But journals like PLOS Biology, eLife and GigaScience, not to mention recent open access launches from Nature, Science, and now ACS, show that open access can publish really high-quality impactful research. Some critics view open access megajournals, such as the forthcoming ACS Omega, as little more than dumping grounds for “low quality” science. We see it very differently: journals like PLOS ONE and ACS Omega provide authors with the opportunity to publish research that defies convenient labeling, that has been held up unnecessarily at other journals, that gives scientists the validation their talent and industry deserves, and to help other groups evaluate intriguing results that might not yet constitute a complete story. We can’t stress enough that research submitted to ACS Omega will be peer reviewed as stringently as any other ACS journal, but decisions will be made solely on the basis of technical soundness, not subjective evaluations of interest or significance.

132456: Why has the ACS fought so hard against open access?

Darla Henderson: This is a curious misperception of ACS’ views on open access. ACS Publications recognized the growing interest in open access almost a decade ago, which is when we began offering our ACS AuthorChoice license enabling any author to publish any paper as open access. Clearly Open access is a changing environment, and there are a variety of pilots and projects being tested across publishers around the globe. Funders are also releasing or modifying public/open access policies. ACS recognizes this reality and is seeking a sustainable way forward. In keeping with our mission as a society, ACS is sponsoring some significant efforts for allaying open access – through ACS Central Science, ACS Editors’ Choice, and our ACS Author Rewards program.

  • ACS Central Science, our first fully open access journal is a high impact journal that has already made a significant mark in the scientific publishing world – strong initial citations, heavy media pick up and visibility, fast time to publication, and showcasing the best articles across and beyond the multidisciplinary field.
  • ACS Editors’ Choice also has costs of open access supported by the ACS – one new article each day of the year as recommended by ACS editors – ACS sponsors the open access charges.
  • Lastly, ACS Author Rewards is a program where we gave back to all corresponding authors who published with us during 2014 – each article garnered two $750 credits against open access charges – those can be redeemed through the end of December 2017.

open access ACS Editor's Choice

Hypergrip: Looking back at the last, let’s say 10 years, how would you evaluate the success of the “open access” concept in general (national/ worldwide, maybe sector-specific)? Also, what (or who) would you consider the biggest “blocks” for open access to succeed on a grand scale?

Darla Henderson: There’s definitely been a significant growth in the number of open access articles published in “hybrid” journals across a variety of disciplines as well as the rise of mega journals as Kevin referenced earlier. Almost all publishers now offer open access options across the majority of journals they publish. The biggest block? Finding a sustainable path forward that takes into consideration the value add publishers bring. And publishers do bring value. ACS journals are community-led, with significant value being added during the peer review process by our editors, editorial boards, and peer reviewers – rapid peer review facilitated by software we help develop. ACS adds value in tagging to aid in discoverability, providing high quality and timely production, and delivering content to a worldwide audience on our pubs.acs.org platform. So, how to achieve sustainable open access without decreasing any of the value we provide is the question of the day.

ProtozoanOwen: I am an undergraduate student studying Biochemistry at Juniata College. What is some advice in how I can become more involved in research and basically become a better student in the world of Chemistry?

Darla Henderson: Get involved and stay involved! Start building a network of advisors at your college and beyond – and exploring what topics interest you the most. ACS local/regional/national meetings are a great place to network and to learn more about your area of interest. You can also find great jobs at ACS meetings. Good luck to you!

Learn more about ACS Publications’ open access initiatives.