Perspectives on Open Access Publishing and Research

Open access journals allow free public access to research findings and data, however, they could use help boosting their reputations, and therefore their utility.

The Issue

Many research funders support the idea of open access publications that allow free public access to timely peer-reviewed publications. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) commissioned interviews to better understand grantee and staff members’ opinions of open access publishing.

Key Findings

In general, grantees and staff saw the benefits of open access as a way to democratize research access and findings, thus broadening dissemination and policy impact. Some concerns were raised, however, including:

  • The cost of publishing in journals that charge article processing fees may be prohibitive to junior faculty members.

  • The quality of open access publications is viewed by many as substandard to closed, top-tier peer-reviewed journals.

  • Career advancement for academics depends on publishing in high-impact journals, which tend to be closed, not open access journals that are not the standard journals in a field.


In order to increase the availability of open access publications, open data, and open research, interviewees suggested that RWJF work with top-tier journals to increase access to more of their content. A third-party entity could be established to bridge the gaps in understanding between open access publications and researchers. This could be accomplished through a grant or by creating a consortium of funders to help existing open access journals build their reputations.

About the Study

Consultant Kelly A. Hunt conducted telephone interviews with 27 grantees (13 worked in non-university settings and 14 worked in university settings) and 16 staff members, May 2016 through July 2016.