Open Access publishing of research means making the research free to view, rather than through a paid subscription.
Jisc (the UK digital, data and technology agency for higher education, research, and innovation) gives a good overview of what this means and the benefits to researchers and society in general. NHS Education for Scotland recently conducted research with NHS Scotland authors (including clinicians, researchers, and educators) on their awareness around Open Access publishing. There were a small number of respondents (17), however, less that 50% of the published authors contacted had used an Open Access publishing route.
We could look at it as a moral imperative, as well as a social good, that research information generated within publicly funded bodies belongs to all of us, but it is more than a moral argument. The Chief Scientist Office, NHS Scotland, has an open access policy for funded research, as do many other funding bodies, e.g. those under the UK Research and Innovation group of research councils and the National Institute for Health and Care Research insist, as part of their research grant, that the research findings are published as Open Access. NHS Research Scotland, in conjunction with the Health Research Authority has a policy of research transparency, Make it Public.
Despite this there is currently no central funding in the NHS in Scotland either locally or nationally for open access publishing and the advice staff are given is that if they are doing a funded piece of research that they should include budget for this.
As detailed by Jisc, there are a variety of ways to satisfy the need for open access:
When publishing with a commercial publisher under green or gold agreements, the rights the author signs over under licence to the publisher will vary depending on the journal. Some journals (especially in the diamond/platinum model) may allow the application of a Creative Commons licence.
As part of our subscription to the Karger journal collection, we have a read and publish deal. This means Karger will accept submissions to their journals, for peer review and subsequent publishing of high- quality research, without the need to pay an article processing charge. See https://karger.com/pages/open-access.
As subscribers to BMJ Case Reports, we are provided with a code for each health board, which enables NHS researchers to submit case reports free of charge. Contact email@example.com or your local library service for this. Unfortunately, the submitted case reports will not be published as Open Access, unless an additional fee of circa £475 is paid.
If you are affiliated with a University, the Scottish University Press provides a cost-effective route for Scottish HEIs to make their work freely available. Currently the focus is on publishing books but there are plans to publish articles in the future.
Beware of predatory publishing, which refers to deceptive or unscrupulous practices by certain journals or publishers attempting to exploit the open access model. This typically means charging authors a fee for publishing while providing minimal or no peer review, leading to the dissemination of low-quality or misleading research. For more information about predatory publishing see the University of Cambridge’s open research site.