The open publishing movement aims to address the issues and concerns around for-profit publishing, by making peer-reviewed journal articles free for anyone to access. Prominent examples of open publishing are the Public Library of Science, Frontiers, and eLife. These journals are published by not-for-profit corporations, so, while reviewers and editors still perform their duties for free, they are not contributing to revenue-generating activities for a for-profit company. Since the publishing process still incurs significant costs (such as copyediting, final production, and web hosting), open journals cannot operate in a fully cost-free fashion. However, rather than charging for access to read the published works, these journals charge authors a publication fee. The logic behind this is that the authors hold research grants that pay for other aspects of conducting the research, so it is natural that the costs of disseminating the work also come from these grants. It is also important to note that there has been a significant rise in predatory journals — journals that emulate open journals in charging a fee for publication, and providing free access to the published results, but which are often for-profit companies, and either do not require peer review for publishing, or have very low standards for peer review. Scientists concerned with the quality of their work, and how it is perceived by their peers, quickly learn to research publishers prior to submitting manuscripts so as to avoid predatory publishers.
Open journals differ in their approach to the question of impact factor. Some journals explicitly guarantee publication of any research study that is deemed to be scientifically and ethically sound, regardless of its perceived impact. Examples of this include PLoS ONE and Frontiers. Individual papers (and the journals, in aggregate), still report impact factors, but anticipated impact is not a criterion for publication. At the same time, some open publishers see the value in curation and have journals that are more selective in the papers they accept. For instance, while PLoS ONE accepts papers based solely on scientific merit, the same organization publishes PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine, which consider “works of exceptional importance”.
Another facet of open publishing is preprint archives. These are freely-accessible, web-based repositories on which scientists can post copies of their manuscripts prior to peer review. This has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that the world is provided with earlier access to scientific results — although with the caveat that in the absence of peer review, these findings could be incorrect, misleading, or even fraudulent. Good scientists, however, have reputations to build and uphold, and so are usually disincentivized publicly posting incorrect or fraudulent material. Another advantage is that, even if the scientists ultimately choose to publish their work in a “closed” journal, the preprint is still publicly available. Many journals allow the final, accepted version of a paper to be published in an open archive, with the caveat that this must not be the version formatted by the journal. One of the earliest and most prominent of these is arXiv, however there are now many others. As well, many universities have their own repositories, providing their faculty and students with an in-house platform for archiving. For example, Dalhousie University’s libraries offer DalSpace.