SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
18 June 2015
Volume 16 Issue 6

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Making Sense of Open Access

Jen Lynch, SETAC Publications Manager

Open access has long been a growing movement in the scientific community, but between the recent flurry of new funding mandates and the ambiguous terms and options, many researchers are left feeling a bit overwhelmed. This article gives a brief overview of the options, the funders and how SETAC authors can find support navigating all of these changes.

What is open access?
Open access literature refers to online content that is freely accessible and has broad re-use options. The copyright terms are a major part of open access, though they are often obfuscated in the chatter around publisher pay walls, high subscription rates and shrinking library budgets. While most mandates only require free access to the content, true open access means that anyone can use the content in almost any way as long as they credit the original source.

Open Access options
There are two commonly used options for making research freely available: “green” and “gold” open access.

Green open access refers to archiving. This is the preferred route for most funding mandates and allows authors to deposit their submitted manuscript immediately on personal and institutional websites and non-commercial pre-print servers, or to do the same with the accepted version after a given embargo. For SETAC journals, authors can post the submitted manuscript immediately upon publication, but are required to wait 12 months before the accepted version can be shared in repositories. It is important to note that the final, copyedited article of record is not allowed on these archival sites.

Gold access allows authors, their institutions or their funders to pay to replace the traditional copyright license with a Creative Commons license. There are four different Creative Commons licensing options, but all allow for free and legal re-use with attribution. The differences are in the restrictions (no commercial re-use, no derivative works, neither, or both). Gold access articles are freely available on the publisher’s website, and the final, published version of the article can be disseminated more broadly immediately upon publication. The SETAC journals offer this option as well for a cost of US$3,000.

Funding mandates
Funding mandates and institutional requirements regarding access to the research vary. There is an online repository of open access mandates and policies, and at the moment of composing this article, there are 78 funder mandates, 54 funder and research organization mandates, 8 multiple research organization mandates, 482 university or research institution mandates, and 71 sub-unit (department, school or faculty) mandates. By the time this article goes to press, some of these numbers will certainly have changed.

Governments worldwide have been assessing their policies. Most do not include the funds for gold access in their grants, so they are keen to implement green policies, though the embargo timeframes range from no embargo to 3-, 6-, 9- and 12- month embargoes. Our publisher, Wiley, lists the open access policies by funder and by institution. You are encouraged to visit these sites if you would like to read about your country’s policies.

Author Support
The SETAC journals comply with most funding mandates. Wiley provides regular updates to the society and numerous services to our authors. For example, articles with NIH-funded authors are automatically uploaded to PUBMED and PubMed Central once the embargo period has expired. They have author services to help you navigate the licensing options, they have established direct pay options with funding institutions, and they have detailed author rights for every version of the manuscript.

What does this mean for articles published in SETAC journals? There are no easy answers. In a few years’ time, it's likely the majority of SETAC content will likely be freely available in one version or another through either green or gold open access. This shift to free may negatively affect the revenue from the SETAC journals, which supports journal operations and our society activities. On the other hand, open access aims to facilitate open communication, which furthers SETAC’s core mission to support the development of principles and practices for protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.

In theory, open access is a good thing – it opens the research, making it more accessible. The challenges can be seen in the adoption, implementation, debate and discussion among scientific societies, researchers, libraries and publishers. SETAC will continue to follow developments in open access, with a goal of fostering open communication while maintaining a solvent journal operation.

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