Accessibility of psychology papers: Will you sign the More Open Access Pledge?

open accessIn an ideal world, our knowledge would be of high quality and it would be accessible to all.

This guest blogpost is about an initiative to speed up accessibility: the More Open Access Pledge. I’m hoping that you will sign up and encourage others to do so too.

Introducing Eva Alisic

evaOur guest blogger is a senior research fellow at Monash University, Australia, where she leads the Trauma Recovery Lab, and a visiting scholar at the University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Switzerland. Her team studies how children, young people, and families cope with traumatic experiences, and how professionals can support them. Parts of this blogpost have been published on the Trauma Recovery blog.  

Therapists cannot access therapy literature

We recently examined how open the literature on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is. Unfortunately not very: 58% of the publications were behind a paywall.

It is worrying that practicing psychologists cannot access the latest research on therapy effectiveness. Or on how to deal with dropout from interventions. Or on clients’ perspectives.

The migration crisis and refugees are on my mind a lot these days. How can we justify that relevant knowledge is unavailable to support those in need?

Not only practitioners have little access to the latest evidence. The same applies to many scholars in low-resource settings, policy makers, and citizens in general. Much research is behind a paywall, even though it was funded with public money. This system is lucrative for the publishers of certain ‘traditional journals’, which charge extra-ordinary amounts of subscription money to university libraries.

Getting radical

I have decided to be radical about it: since last month, I submit my first-authored research papers to Open Access outlets only. I’m moving to reviewing exclusively for Open Access journals, reflecting on my citation practices and exploring my Open Data possibilities.

With Open Access outlets, I do not mean traditional journals that offer authors the option to make a single article available to everyone. That means paying the same publisher twice and does not change the system. I also do not mean falling into the hands of predatory publishers (see e.g. Beall’s list and ThinkCheckSubmit).

Several quality Open Access journals accept psychology articles. Examples are PLOS ONE, PLOS Medicine, PeerJ, and, in my specific field, the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. Some of them charge authors high amounts of money though, creating further inequality between researchers from high- and low-income settings. There are also interesting developments around pre-print platforms and overlay journals.

Many see my move as ‘career suicide’, as I will not submit my papers to top journals. Even colleagues with a strong commitment to Open Access feel they cannot take the risk.

It says a lot about how much we focus on reputation of journals in contrast to quality and accessibility of knowledge itself. And it reinforces why radical stances like mine are necessary to change the system.

Nevertheless, making a smaller move towards open access is much better than making no move at all. If many people do this, it will make a difference. That is why, together with members of the Global Young Academy, we recently launched the More Open Access pledge.

The More Open Access Pledge

The Global Young Academy is a 200-strong worldwide organization of early- and mid-career researchers. They are passionate about science communication, science advice, and science education. Open Science is a key interest, which led to statements on Open Data and Open Acces

Last week, 132 members and alumni pledged to submit at least 1 manuscript to an Open Access outlet in the remainder of 2016. The outlet can be either an Open Access journal or a well-recognized platform (e.g. ArXiv for physics), as long as the manuscript is peer-reviewed and shared without an embargo period.

The goal of the pledge to accelerate the move towards Open Access in a way that is feasible for most researchers, irrespective of discipline, seniority, or resources.

As one signatory commented: “It makes so much more sense to start with a low threshold self-commitment pledge rather than ‘I will publish most of my articles in OA’ and other manifestos out there that are unpractical for the majority of researchers.”

You can join the pledge

We hope that many people will join the pledge for More Open Access.

You can read more and sign up right away. And we hope that you will start conversations with colleagues and encourage them to get involved too.