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OA / OER Toolkit: OA Myths

Myth #1

Myth #1: Open access journals are not peer reviewed.

  • Fact: A journal's peer review policy is independent of its business model.
  • Fact: Most scholarly journals, open access and toll access, are peer reviewed.
  • Fact: Sure, some open access journals are not rigorously reviewed, but the same is true of some toll access journals

Myth #1: Busted!

Myth #2

Myth #2: Open access journals are lower quality than other journals.

  • Fact: Open access means that anyone can read the journal. OA does not mean that anyone can publish in the journal.
  • Fact: OA journals are real journals. Publishing in an OA journal is not self-publishing or vanity publishing.
  • Fact: OA journals earn respectability in the same way other journals do: through the quality of their articles and the prominence of the people they attract as authors, editorial board members, etc. Of course, just as some non-OA journals are better than others, some OA journals are better than others.  Before submitting to any journal, research its quality!
  • Fact: The openness of a journal is completely independent of the quality or rigor of that journal.

Imagine a graph with an x-axis and y-axis, where the x-axis is the level of openness, and the y-axis is the quality or rigor or prestige of the journals. There are journals in all four quadrants: excellent subscription-based journals, excellent open access journals, crappy subscription journals, and crappy open access journals. Be sure to research a journal before forming an opinion about it! (For more information about poor-quality open access journals, see Beyond Beall's List: Better Understanding Predator Publishers by Monica Berger and Jill Cirasella.)

Myth #2: Busted!

Myth #3

Myth #3: Everyone who needs access to scholarly articles already has access.

  • Fact: Libraries do not and cannot subscribe to all scholarly journals.
  • Fact: Because of unsustainable increases in journal prices, many libraries have had to cancel subscriptions, and additional cancellations are in sight.
  • Fact: Interlibrary loan can be slow and is not always possible.
  • Fact: It's not just academic researchers who need scholarly literature. Doctors, patients, journalists, high school teachers, and others need it too!

Myth #3: Busted!

Myth #4

Myth #4: Open access journals always charge publication fees.

  • Fact: There are many business models for open access journals. (Read about the different models.) Some open access journals charge publication fees (often called article publishing charges, or APCs); some do not.
  • Fact: Some toll access journals also charge fees (e.g., by the page, by the illustration)!
  • Fact: Publication fees have no bearing on whether an article is accepted.
  • Fact: Publication fees are generally not paid from researchers' pockets:
    • Grant funding is often used to pay publication fees.
    • A growing number of institutions pay fees for their employees.
    • Some journals waive fees for those who cannot afford them.

Myth #4: Busted!

Be Skeptical!

If you hear these myths or other sweeping statements about open access publishing, investigate to find out if they're true!

More Myths!

Open Access: Six Myths to Put to Rest
by Peter Suber

In this Guardian article from 2013, OA expert Peter Suber debunks these six myths:

  1. The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals.
  2. All or most open access journals charge publication fees.
  3. Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves.
  4. Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access.
  5. Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality.
  6. Open access mandates infringe academic freedom.