Free open access for early career researchers

Confused about open access? It doesn’t always mean you have to pay to publish. Last year I finished my Master of Information Management, and turned my unfunded research project into:

  • An article in a highly-regarded open access journal
  • An open access report
  • A peer-reviewed open access paper for a highly-regarded conference
  • Open data – an interview guide and deidentified interview transcripts

Publishing all of these open access research outputs was free. Let’s take a look at each of them…

The journal article

Quigley, N. (2021). Open access in the humanities, arts and social sciences: Complex perceptions of researchers and implications for research support. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1), 1–27.

The goal for my journal article was to reach as many research libraries as possible. Citations are not important to me, because I wanted to whisper an idea into the ears of those who support researchers.

Many open access journals do not charge authors to publish. I chose an open access journal that has no article processing charge (APC), and was confident in my choice because I’ve previously read lots of great articles in this journal. If you want to look up a journal to see if it charges authors to publish open access, search for it in The Directory of Open Access Journals.

The other reason I chose this open access journal was that it didn’t make me hand over the rights to my work. Many journals own your article once it’s been accepted for publication, which puts restrictions on how you can share and reuse your own work. Next time you’re considering a journal to submit an article to, see if you can find out their policy on author rights before you submit. Try one of these methods:

Maybe the journal offers green open access? This ability to share a version of your article (usually without fancy journal formatting) is better than nothing. However, some journal publishers who offer green open access are also making a nice profit from your work that you were not paid for. Their profit comes from charging readers for your article on their journal website, via subscriptions and one-off downloads.

Just 8 weeks after publication, my journal article has almost 600 downloads. This is from hundreds of people who regard this open access journal as high-quality, with articles of interest for research libraries.

Bar graph with title 'Who downloaded my first journal article?' The y-axis is the number of downloads. The three bars are labelled:
- me (1 download)
- my dad (1 download)
- people in research libraries (580 downloads)
Journal article downloads (on 10/02/2022, 8 weeks after publication)

The report

Quigley, N. (2021). Humanities researchers and open access: Opportunities for Curtin University.

My Masters research collaborator was a university library, and needed snappy actionable recommendations in a report format. I published my report on their institutional repository, with a DOI. My recommendations have already led to some changes in open access support at this university library, and further funded research opportunities for me.

The conference paper

The peer-reviewed, co-authored conference paper with Julie Clift and Dr Hollie White will be available as open access following the VALA2022 conference in June. I chose this conference because it makes its conference proceedings available for free, as open access after the conference.

The open data

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview guide (Version 1). Zenodo.

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview transcripts [Data set]. Zenodo.

I think open data is a fascinating window into the research process, and can also contribute to trustworthiness in qualitative research (read more on p7 of my article). I value research components that are reusable, which is why I shared my interview guide as open access, to be reused by other libraries. The interview guide also provides useful context for the deidentified interview transcripts which are available as open data.

To share my open data, I used Zenodo, a free repository. Zenodo enables me to get DOIs for my research outputs, add keywords to make my research outputs more findable, and will look after my research outputs for at least the next 20 years.


My first research project was as open access as possible, and I blogged about research methods too. In addition to all of my open access research outputs being free to publish, the journal and conference policies enabled me to retain the rights to my journal article and co-authored conference paper.

Publishing open access can be free, with a potential audience far beyond researchers whose workplaces can afford to pay journal subscriptions.


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