I sometimes receive the question why my research is not accessible to a broad audience. Even though I expect my articles to be accessible by all my academic colleagues all over the world, this is not the case. Many academics do not have access because certain journals are not within the paid access package of their university or research institution. Colleagues affiliated to governmental agencies often have no access at all to this kind of academic articles.
For you as a researcher, this means that your articles are not that widespread as you might think. Your articles are probably easily accessible by colleagues working in universities in the North-Western part of the hemisphere, but you probably want them to be accessible for an audience as broad as possible, in developed as well as developing countries, and in every part of the world. After all, isn’t this what the World Wide Web has promised us? To be fair, I was astonished about the limited access researchers, educators, and policy representatives around the world experience in their search for scientific information.
Now, when publishing a new article, you have two options. The first one is to pay a certain amount to the journal in which you publish, in order to make it open access to everyone around the world with an internet connection (because, let’s be fair, even this might be a barrier to access). The downside is that journals charge thousands of dollars to make your article open access. Unfortunately, this cost is too high to carry, and universities or funding agencies do not (always) want to pay for this. Luckily, there’s a second option. Journals do not want you to spread your article in its final edited version online, but most of them do give you the possibility to spread the so-called “post-print” version, which is the latest version as it is accepted for publication, but without the editing and lay-out from the journal.
To check whether the journal allows you to spread your article, you can check the website http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/. This website labels international journals in four categories. Category ‘White’ means that archiving of your article is not formally supported by the journal, in this case, the only thing you can do is refer to the official source of your article without any options to open access versions. Category ‘Yellow’ means that you can archive your article in a pre-print version, i.e. a version pre-refereeing. This means that this version most probably will differ from the final version, as revisions will be made throughout the refereeing-process. Category ‘Blue’ means that you can archive the post-print version of your article, i.e. the final version after the refereeing process, accepted for publication, or the publishers version/PDF, which is the final version after the editing and lay-out process. Category ‘Green’ means that the journal allows you to archive pre-print, post-print, and/or publisher’s version/PDF.
The print screen below shows a journal record in Sherpa/Romeo, in this case “Ecological Indicators”. This journal is classified as a Romeo green journal, and the specifications below state that pre- and post-print are allowed, while the PDF version cannot be archived by the author. In the case of our article in this journal, I chose to archive a post-print version. This version is uploaded in the repository of my university and also on my website.
The advantages of self-archiving are clear: your articles are open access available to anyone interested; researchers, educators, policy members, journalists, etc. Furthermore, the time between acceptance and online availability of your article often takes months or even years, so making your post-print version available enables you to make your article available from the moment it is accepted for publication. Also, you can upload this version in other repositories like ResearchGate and Academia. This creates greater readership and – important if you pursue an academic career – more citations. A major constraint of archiving post-print versions of your articles is that it does not have the lay-out and page numbers of the article in the journal, which is of course crucial when readers want to make explicit citations to your text.
I’m now making all my articles available in Open Access version. This means the PDF version of the journal if it is Open Access, or – if the journal does not allow to spread this version – the post-print version of the article, i.e. the version as it is accepted for publication, but without the lay-out of the journal. Check out the publications page to download the Open Access version of the articles. A detailed citation is added at the beginning of the post-print versions, so you can easily add these to your reference list. Please get in contact if a download link is not working or if you want more information.
Sharing and referring to the text above is welcome, however please provide the correct reference: Lambrechts, W. (2015). Why I support Open Access, http://www.sustainablehighereducation.com, 6 October 2015.