March 19, 2015 | Dr William Riggs, Assistant Professor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California (@billyriggs)

Perspectives on open access: an early-career researcher’s view

The opportunities and challenges of publishing OA

What are the opportunities and challenges that publishing open access (OA) presents for early-career researchers? Dr. William Riggs is an Assistant Professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in California and was one of the recent winners of the Taylor & Francis Gold Friday competition, winning an article publishing charge waiver. Here he offers his perspective on publishing his work OA.

Why did you choose to publish your work OA?

I think my rationale for publishing OA relates to one word – accessibility. Growing up in the genesis of the Internet age, I've always been a proponent of the free flow of information, and the idea of barriers to it frustrates me. As a city planning professor, I see my work as something that has a very public-facing component, and needs to provide a service for public good. Many times, I try to put myself in the shoes of a public servant or government official. They may be looking for information on a topic, let's say in my main area of sustainable transportation behavior. If my work has the answer to their question and it is behind a paywall, then it doesn't really help them. I'd rather be part of their solution.

What opportunities or issues do you see OA as having for early-career researchers?

I'm glad you offer the opportunity to discuss both opportunities and issues. I do think there is a vast amount of opportunities to be gained by junior faculty exploring open-access publishing early in their career.

The exposure is invaluable, since there's a direct correlation in number of citations and early reading of an article. Since most of us don't have formal marketing staff, having an article available for free just takes away one more barrier to people getting to your work – which hopefully is outstanding!

Counter to that, I think the big issue is expense and “who” it is that pays. Most campuses, including mine, don't offer compensation or reimbursement for OA fees so faculty without a funded project end up either not paying OA fees, or paying for them out of their personal savings.  While I think there are solutions out there, it’s a tough reality that is still being fleshed out between libraries and publishers. Fortunately I’m an optimist, so I believe in a future when we see this tension resolved.

How does publishing OA work in practice for you as a researcher?

Well, the answer to this question really relates to the story I began telling in your previous question. If you have a grant that can cover your fees, or work at an institution that offers support, then your path is easy; you work with them to pay the article publishing charge. It becomes more complicated when you have to be entrepreneurial because of self-funded or unfunded publications.

You have a choice in how to proceed; you can scan for funding from your institution (perhaps a professional development fund) or you can pull from your personal accounts. The personal savings option is not preferable, but as a tenure-track academic it's a cost of doing business that you might want to consider bearing (plus it can be considered a work-related tax write-off in some locations). For me, since I have two kids and a mortgage, this option is not realistic. Anything over a few hundred dollars is a significant portion of our monthly budget and just takes away too much from my family. As a result, I'd say 80% of my publications are not OA; not because of lack of desire, just because of lack of funding.

That said, if you really believe in something, something that you have spent a lot of time and effort on, you might consider it. I’ve made this trade-off in the past and feel that I’ve benefited in getting my work in front of more people earlier by doing so. The actual publication process is not that difficult. It just involves submitting payment and then working with the publisher to assign that payment to the accepted piece in X journal.

Editor’s note: Taylor & Francis Open and Open Select journals only raise invoices once articles have been through peer review and have been accepted by the Editorial Office. Our academic editors are not involved in the payment process. Read our FAQs on this process, and on available discounts and waivers, for more information.

I know that there is some scrutiny of author-paid models over the past few years, but I think online, OA is really the future of publication. My hope is that some of the tension we see now (and perhaps personal pain as junior faculty) is just a settling-in process as more and more journals move to digital, online, and OA formats.  I think these formats promote an active and robust dialogue, and get more information out in front of global thinkers. My hope is that they can help inspire self-organized learning, and facilitate solutions to the complex problems our planet currently faces.


Published: March 19, 2015 | Author: Dr William Riggs, Assistant Professor, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, California (@billyriggs) | Category: Front page, News and ideas, Open Access (OA) | Tagged with: