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Understanding Open Access

The purpose of this guide is to give VDOT employees a basic overview of "Open Access" journals (and other OA resources). This guide does not discuss "Open Data."

Introduction to Open Access

"Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment." 

Source: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
 

Why Open Access

Researchers engage and invest in research to accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, to encourage innovation, to enrich education, to stimulate the economy, and to improve the public good. Communicating research results is an essential component of the research process. Research advances knowledge through shared results, and the value of an investment in research is maximized through wide use of research results. Researchers can't use research if they can't access it.

Due to cost barriers or use restrictions, research results are often not available to the full community of potential users. The Internet gives us the opportunity to bring research results to a worldwide audience at a low marginal cost, and allows us to use research in new and innovative ways. This has resulted in a call for new framework to allow research results to be more easily accessed and used — the call for Open Access. 

Excerpted from: Open Access, SPARC
 

Open Access Can Be Complex

Open Access takes many forms and journal articles are only one outlet for research results. Here are some of the ways researchers interact with Open Access journal articles:

Green Open Access Icon. Self-archiving, DIY, or Green Open Access: Authors who publish articles in any kind of journal often want to share and post their work for others to read. Authors do this in many ways — through institutional repositories, personal websites, or in online communities. Self-archiving needs to be done with careful consideration of author agreements and copyright and contractual agreements set in place by the journal that originally published the article.

 

Green Open Access Icon.
Self-archiving, DIY, or Green Open Access: Authors who publish articles in any kind of journal often want to share and post their work for others to read. Authors do this in many ways — through institutional repositories, personal websites, or in online communities. Self-archiving needs to be done with careful consideration of author agreements and copyright and contractual agreements set in place by the journal that originally published the article.
 
 
 
Gold Open Access Icon
Gold Open Access journals: There are peer-reviewed journals that do not charge readers subscription fees. These journals typically charge authors an "open access publication fee," however some OA journals do not charge any fees.
 
 
 
 
Hybrid open access icon.
Hybrid Open Access journals: A growing number of peer-reviewed journals that charge readers a subscription fee are offering authors the option to make individual articles "Open" through an additional author fee. This helps readers without a subscription access articles the author opted to publish through this path, decreasing overall barriers to access.

 

Open Access Is More About Access Than It Is About "Quality"

Sham journals, Predatory Publishers, non-peer reviewed journals, and journals with low "Impact" scores exist in both the Closed Access arena and the Open Access arena. Before publishing in any journal, researchers should take time to investigate both the journal and the editorial board. See this EXAMPLE of a questionable Open Access transportation journal

Clarification

This guide refers to the concept of "Open Access" in the context of publications made available online to readers without financial, legal, or technical barriers (aside from hardware/software/connection access) to reduce barriers to access. This guide is about Open Access in online publications.

Be advised that the term "Open Access" in transportation research is also used to describe the concept of opening access to a rail operator's track infrastructure when the railroad serves an industry that is not on its own route. This guide is not about "Open Access" to Railway infrastructure. 

Open Data

Open Data is research data that is made freely available on the Internet, permitting any user to download, copy, analyze, re-process, pass to software or use for any other purpose without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself.

Despite its potential importance, today, research data remains largely fragmented — isolated across millions of individual computers, blocked by disparate technical, legal and financial restrictions.

Source: Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)

While we acknowledge the importance of Open Data, and while many of the same concepts and principles of Open Access content apply to Open Data, this guide is not about Open Data. 

If You Work at VTRC or VDOT

Bear in mind that if you have created a report or other work as part of your job responsibilities as a VDOT employee, you may not have any rights to that work (unless agreed upon with your employer), including the right to publish that work with an Open Access publisher. 

​VTRC Employees
If you have a question about what/where to publish, consult with your Associate Director (AD) and the VTRC Research Director.

VDOT Employees
​If you have a question about what/where to publish, consult with your supervisor.

However, Open Access journals can provide a great outlet for publication of works that are NOT part of your job, including any topic you have expertise in. And that can help boost your resume and bolster your career in transportation. Here are some examples of OA transportation journals. 

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