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How to use open access journals to advance and promote your research

By its very design and structure, open access (OA) publishing encourages the broadest dissemination of knowledge and research, thus advancing the tenets of open knowledge and open science. With OA, publication of good scholarship is possible from any source, regardless of country of origin, race, gender, language or economic status of the author. 

OA publishing helps scholars across the world respond to this fundamental question:

Why do academics and scholars, across all disciplines, publish their research findings? 

The purpose of scholarly publishing

There are multiple motivations, ranging from the purely scholarly and altruistic to others which are more self-serving. Many of these reasons overlap. All of them are legitimate and sufficient. Some of the purposes of publishing include the desire to:

  • Share scholarly research with the academic community
  • Publicly document results
  • Help propel research forward for the broader public good
  • Inform the academic community and general public regarding a topic
  • Create precedent in a field and stake a claim of ‘being the first’ to make a discovery
  • Substantiate and reinforce findings made by others
  • Document academic output for promotion considerations
  • Create a reputation and enhance career opportunities and stature
  • Encourage fellow scholars worldwide and help promote diversity and equity in their research

Whatever your reason(s), as an academic scholar you want to amplify your research impact, reach and citations. Below are ways to leverage OA journals and outlets to do just that.

Publishing in hybrid OA journals

Hybrid journals are traditional, subscription-based journals that offer an OA option; authors pay article processing charge (APCs) to have their work published as an OA article in a subscription journal. 

Prior to becoming a hybrid, many of these otherwise traditional journals developed excellent reputations over decades; they have wide readership, high impact factors and excellent altmetric ratings for their articles. Depending on the specialty and academic sub-disciplines, they are ‘the’ journal in which to publish; they have a cachet which earns their papers broader impact and wider readership. OA publication in such journals piggybacks the widest possible reach via free access on top of the journal’s already strong reputation. It’s a win for everyone.

Publishing in highly regarded pure OA journals

Many purely OA journals have developed excellent reputations and high impact factors over the last 20 years. Publication in them, similar to publication in hybrids, automatically boosts the visibility and stature of your article simply by association. 

Below are a few examples. Note that this list of respected pure OA journals is non-exhaustive.

  • Public Library of Science journals (PLOS), including PLOS ONE (science mega journal)
  • Elsevier's Heliyon (publishing research across multiple disciplines)
  • Springer’s OA journals
  • Wiley's OA journals
  • Sage Open (another mega journal covering a broad spectrum of disciplines)
  • Nature Communications (publishes high-quality papers from all areas of science that represent important advances within specific disciplines, but that might not have the scientific impact of papers published in Nature and other Nature research journals)

Publishing in OA journals based on altmetrics

Determining ‘impact’ of an article represents a tricky endeavour. While the number of citations indicates how often an article is referenced, that number doesn’t necessarily indicate ‘impact’. 

One of the newer metrics which attempts to measure impact and reach is the altmetric score. Altmetrics are metrics and qualitative data complementary to traditional, citation-based metrics, and can include citations of articles in Wikipedia, public policy documents, discussion on research blogs, mainstream media coverage and mentions on social media (such as Twitter). Altmetrics and other non-traditional metric systems represent a broadening diversity of metrics that go beyond traditional, citation-based, academic definitions used to determine impact.

Many OA journals and OA articles have high altmetric scores, which indicates greater reach and broader impact. Before you submit your OA manuscript for review, though, check (through a presubmission inquiry) whether the journal engages with altmetrics for its articles.

Sharing research in open repositories

A major challenge with scientific publishing is research that yields negative results. Most journals will publish only positive results. Research with negative results can be hugely important, but it rarely sees the light of day. 

Placement of data sets and negative results of research in OA repositories can help you share your work with others. Other researchers can see your methodologies and results, and perhaps see where your research went astray (or, alternately, see where your research can augment and complement their own.) Such OA sharing could be highly beneficial to the overall investigative process.

Harnessing the power of marketing tools, groups and (social) media

Because OA publishing allows authors to retain the copyright of their work, authors can freely post and publicise their publications on social media. Your academic department and university may have publicity and marketing managers who can help you spread the word about your research to highly targeted audiences. 

Some publishing houses provide marketing support for OA articles. Check to see if your publisher can assist you. Additionally, a number of free, online services exist specifically to help enhance the discoverability of OA content. Mendeley, the Joint Roadmap for Open Science Tools and other similar groups can help you enhance the impact of your OA articles. Tools exist that are both discipline agnostic as well as discipline specific. 

Another potentially valuable resource to investigate, especially for authors from low- to middle-income countries, is Research4Life. This group advocates for the structural equity of academic research. They also have specific resources that help authors promote their research.


Many avenues exist to help authors leverage OA journals and promote their research. These tools and options are working to make openness the default modality for research and ensure that equity is at the centre of academic publishing and scientific research endeavours.


Read previous (sixth) in series: How open access publishing bridges academia with industry and public policy


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