Community Health Toolkit

Open Access Journal Policy?

In the spirit of the work we all do, are there any specific policies around publishing in open-access journals?

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Good question! And timely, given that it’s #OpenAccess week. :smile:

On the front page of communityhealthtoolkit.org you’ll see a few core principles that speak to why and how this community is working together, and one of them is placing a priority on developing Open Access resources. We’re recognizing that it takes a lot more than source code to support great digital health projects–there are all kinds of resources from training guides, to technical documentation, to scientific articles that provide essential context for digital health efforts.

While there isn’t a formal open access policy in the CHT community, in many cases publishing peer-reviewed articles on an OA basis is now required by funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. It’s also the best way to make sure that our research is accessible to practitioners and researchers around the world–most of whom don’t have access to subscription journals. There are three options to bear in mind:

Gold Open Access: Some great journals like PLOS Medicine and JMIR are entirely open access, but most of the established journals aren’t making the transition to open access wholesale. They’re instead offering open access as an option on select articles for authors who pay the article processing charge (from around $500 to as much as $5,000 USD). This is typically called “Gold OA,” I always think gold because it’s awesome, but also gold because it’s expensive :money_mouth_face: Thankfully many funders pay all Gold OA fees in addition to all of their grants. Also, there are some journals that publish Open Access without requiring an article processing charge (such as Global Health: Science and Practice), and others that will waive the charge for researchers from LMIC or in other cases when the authors appeal for support.

Green Open Access: As a co-author on an article, you have the right to post the “Author Accepted Manuscript” to your own website. This is the last version accepted by the journal, but before they did all the formatting. When you chose to do this, it’s called Green OA. Some journals will ask you to “embargo” the paper, i.e. not make it public on your website until 6 months or something after they publish, but it’s pretty much always possible to reserve the right to do this eventually. When you post an article to your academia.edu or Research Gate profile, they show up in Google Scholar, so when you do Green OA right, the articles are generally very accessible.

I think Green OA is a good option when you don’t have a funder paying for article processing charges. That said, as compared to Gold OA, it has a few disadvantages: Three disadvantages of Green OA are 1) many people get your article from your personal site rather than the publisher’s site, which means any article metrics like views or downloads don’t look impressive (though if it’s amazing work it’ll get cited and that shows up regardless); 2) anyone who finds your paper through the publisher’s site may not know that there’s an OA version. I actually think that for most of our work, this is a relatively small problem because people are more likely to find the work through search engines or elsewhere beyond the publishers; 3) the Green OA version is not as pretty and may not “feel” as rigorous. I think many people have more of a bias than they would care to admit when reading a scientific article that is typeset the same as a regular college essay.

Preprint archives: These play a key role in Open Access, even though they’re a little different than the above two publishing options. These are archives where you can post work in progress, to share results or receive feedback before submitting to a journal. In some fields it’s the norm to preprint before you publish, especially in cases where the publication process might take years. It’s also common that white papers or other scientific writing will be posted to preprint archives and may never end up being published in a peer-reviewed journal, and in fact this is even true for some highly cited articles. I’ve used pre-print archives to make Medic Mobile’s white papers available on an open access basis, and have generally been happy to see the use of preprint archives increasing in most research communities.

Some examples of Open Access papers by the CHT community
Example of Green OA: Go to scholar.google.com and search for: Including the Voice of Care Recipients in Community Health Feedback Loops in Rural Kenya

You’ll see a link to the right to download the paper directly from nixdell.com, which is the personal website of one of our collaborators on this paper. The Association for Community Machinery (one of the main publishers for engineering researchers) typically has authors format their own papers so the version you can make Green OA actually looks great, in contrast with most journals in health and social sciences.

Example of Gold OA: Human-Centered Design for Global Health Equity: https://doi.org/10.1080/02681102.2019.1667289

Example of a white paper posted to a preprint archive: Wasunna, B. (2019, September 4). Dietary Diversity and the Management of Malnutrition: Opportunities for mHealth Interventions. https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/FBDX2

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