As many of you may know from my random musings, you’ll know that I am a supporter of the idea of Open Access publishing. I strongly believe that research should be open to everyone, and think it’s unfair that universities have to shell out millions to get access to material, especially when it’s government funded. However, you may also know that I did my PhD self-funded (or at least not funded by the UK government), which can make OA difficult.
Since most journals charge some kind of Article Processing Charge (APC) in order to cover OA costs, that money needs to come from somewhere. In the UK, if you’re funded by a research council, the universities are given money to pay for those costs. If you’re not, you need to pay those fees on your own if you want to achieve the Gold OA standard, where the journal formatted final version of your paper is available to everyone online. So far, all of my first author papers except one have been published Gold OA – I’ve either been able to secure fee waivers by begging the journal (look at you PLoS ONE), or they were published in journals that do not charge APC’s (like the University of Alberta hosted VAMP).
My very first paper, however, was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (JVP), and was not OA. At the time, I remember asking around about how I could share it, and could not come up with a legal way of posting the paper anywhere for people to see, and I forgot about it. I knew that there was the so-called Green OA option, which allows authors to post the unformatted final version of a manuscript to a server, but I wasn’t sure exactly what the rules are and how to go about doing that. After a Twitter discussion about some of the problems of OA, specifically APCs, OA advocate and fellow palaeo Jon Tennant got in touch and explained how I could make this paper OA with the Green OA plan.
Most journals allow Green OA either immediately after publication, or 12 months after, and JVP is one of the 12 month varieties. Since the paper was published in 2014, no problem. I simply found the final manuscript version that I submitted after revisions, added a note to the top to say that the final version could be accessed at JVP so people could see it had been published, and submitted it to PaleorXiv, and within minutes, it was up for people to see (thanks mainly to Jon being online at the time). And just like that, it’s now OA.
I think most people think of PaleorXiv as a preprint server, and many people are a bit suspicious of preprints within palaeontology, but it’s also readily available and used as a postprint server, where a postprint is that unformatted manuscript (that has already been through peer review!) accepted by the journal. If you’re not sure about the Green OA policy of the journal, they’ve put together a handy list summarising different palaeo journals, so you don’t have to go hunt for it yourself.
I had it in my mind that it was difficult to publish Green OA, that it wasn’t allowed by many journals, and that it wasn’t worth it. It was extremely straight forward, easy, and quick. Since submitting it last week, my paper has already been downloaded 52 times, and it’s increased the visibility. I will definitely keep this in mind for any of my non-OA papers in the future, and highly recommend others to try it out as well.