You have three options when choosing to make your work open:
- Publish in an explicitly open access journal, which might involve paying article processing charges (APC)—a fee that is commonly used to offset the lack of a paid subscription to support the journal.
- Publish in a hybrid journal that uses both open access and subscription models for making its content available to readers. APCs for these journals can be just as high (if not higher) than OA-only journals. High-profile journals and publishers in a number of disciplines are developing hybrid options for authors who either choose (or are required to because of funding mandates) to make their work open.
- Publish in a traditional subscription journal, and either negotiate to retain some rights to your work, or self-archive a pre-print of your article in your institutional or disciplinary repository.
All three options will allow you to share some version of your work with the wider world. However, your decision will likely depend on two key factors:
- Amount you are willing or able to pay (either out of pocket or via research funds) to publish your article.
- Importance of publishing in particular kinds of publication venues for the purposes of securing tenure or promotion.
This combination of factors can produce many different results. For example, early-career scholars often have access to fewer research funds or grants to cover publication charges, and often feel pressure to publish in particular journals in order to satisfy tenure requirements. These individuals might choose to publish in a subscription journal and make use of other means to provide access to their work. Scholars who work with translational research and who want to ensure their materials will be available to communities beyond the academy might choose an open access journal to ensure the broadest possible access to their work, regardless of fees. Some researchers might have publication requirements imposed upon them by funding agencies, mandating that they share their work openly in accordance with the funder’s rules. It’s even possible that a top journal in your field might have very author-friendly agreements, allowing you to publish your work in accordance with open access principles without having to compromise on your need (or desire) to have it appear in a particular journal.
The most important thing to remember is that there are many ways to make your work open. Choose the method that works for you and your co-authors.
In order to make an informed decision, educate yourself about the default copyright policies of any journals you are considering as publication venues. It’s possible they have author-friendly policies already. If you have received funds to support your research, educate yourself about any mandates or conditions upon receipt of those funds. It’s possible your funding agency has requirements for publishing that you weren’t aware of previously. If you need help finding an appropriate publication venue, consult a librarian in your field.