How does open access

publishing work?

All Dutch universities support open access publishing. Since December 1, 2015, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has even made it mandatory that research that was carried out with public money is published in an open access format. What do you have to keep in mind as a scientist or academic? And who pays?

In open access publishing, there are two routes: the ‘green’ and the ‘gold’ route. Green is already possible in many places: the article can be offered to the digital archive of scientific publications of the university library, the so-called ‘repository’. All universities have such a repository. Publishers do often set conditions on when the article can be freely accessed in the repository.


In the gold route, the publisher of the open access journal itself publishes the article in an open access format. The Directory of Open Access Journals lists more than 11,000 high-quality open access scientific publications.


Most universities have already offered support for open access publishing since 2005. For example, there are support centres that can advise on negotiations with publishers, criteria for open access, choosing open access journals, the use of social media in publications, and copyright issues.

‘Open access can improve quality’

Is open access publishing difficult? Not according to Professor Huub Savenije of TU Delft.

Professor Savenije has been the chief editor of Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) for many years now. ‘HESS was one of the first journals with a web-based peer review system’, Savenije explains enthusiastically. ‘A draft paper is put on the web and the invited peer reviewers comment on the paper. Actually, anyone can do so, and the author can respond. This dynamic discussion on the review of the paper is documented on the web.’


Innovative discoveries

Savenije is especially enthusiastic about the accessibility of open access. ‘In the traditional model, it is often difficult to get the truly innovative papers published. This can often take years. It’s quite normal to be rejected quite a few times before your article finally gets accepted in such journals. However, by then your innovative discovery has already passed through the hands of a dozen people. By then, someone else might actually already have started using your idea!’


Impact factor

A big advantage of open access publications in a journal is that the average time between submission and publication is short. In his own journal, HESS, this is half a year, says Savenije. ‘As a result, the impact factor increases. You reach a wider audience more quickly and your article is read more often.’


Higher quality

According to Savenije, open access is not detrimental to quality. The review process is organised in the same way as in a traditional journal. We have a committee of editors, and there is always an editor responsible for each paper. Each paper is reviewed. However, all publications are immediately public. I venture the assertion that open access improves quality. Draft papers are put online immediately, where they will remain accessible. Scientists and academics are well aware that publishing a weak paper may have very grave consequences.’



Cost need not be a problem

Open access publishing often entails certain costs, because the publisher cannot derive revenue from subscriptions or pay-per-view requests. How does that work exactly?

The cost of open access publishing varies per magazine and/or publisher, ranging from $ 500 to $ 4,500 per article, TU Delft reports. The more prestigious the platform, the higher the cost. The author mainly pays for the peer review process, the preparation of the manuscript and the internet server.


So yes, open access can be expensive for the scientist or academic or their scientific department. There isn’t always room in the scientific budget of the department for these costs. However, there are ways around this, as Professor Levi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Amsterdam Medical Centre and representative of the NFU (Netherlands federation of university medical centres) explains in this video. ‘Where medical scientific articles are concerned, universities and university medical centres do their best to centralise these costs, so that – similar to journal subscriptions, which are paid by the university centrally – open access need not entail additional costs for researchers.’


Find out more?


According to the editors and authors of BioMed Central, open access is the future of science.



Scientist meets publisher



Publisher Wiley explains how open access works