Everybody wants to feel that they belong by being a member of a variety of social groups [clubs]. Scientists are no different, and there are differences from one club to the next. Some are more exclusive than others. There are clubs of scientists who were educated at Ivy League schools [a pretty small club], and clubs of those who haven't been. There are other kinds of clubs, such as the set of people who:
- Work at an ivy league school
- Are a tenured professor at an ivy league school
- Got 1600 (or 2400) on the SAT
- Published multiple times in Science/Nature/Cell/PRL/JACS
- Were award winners in a society like the ACS or the American Physical Society
- Received a grant of $1M plus from the NIH
- Are members of the National Academy of Sciences
- Carry a public library card
- Are short, slightly pudgy middle-aged balding men with two dogs
- Make beer at home
So, what does this all have to do with Open Access?
Scientists like the clubs that are prestigious and are exclusive. Some scientists like the fact that only relevant subscribers can read their articles in toll-access journals. If you work for a rich institution that can afford a subscription to a journal like Tetrahedron Letters ($16,773 list price for an annual subscription, or if you or your institution can afford to buy articles as needed), then you must be at a place deemed good enough to read it. These scientists may not even post green OA versions of their articles, even though the publisher allows it.
Administrators may use value judgments to say that if you published in a 4 star journal, then your work must be good because it is difficult to get articles accepted by that journal. Hence, you may look good simply because you are a member of that particular club. If you have great articles that are not published in four star journals, you may have a much harder time getting your work noticed by the administrators. However, it has been shown that simply having an article in a prestigious journal (with a high impact factor) does not mean that any specific accepted article is any good.
Some Open Access publishing sources are trying to break down this exclusivity mindset and thought process. Journals like PLOS ONE have a different standard of acceptance. Even with the different standard, the journal still rejects about 30% of incoming papers. Some scientists see this as a lower standard, and hence they may think that all of the articles in PLOS ONE must be of low quality. Of course, that is not true. (Note: if you care, PLOS ONE has an impact factor of about 4.0 which is pretty good overall.)
Scientists are trying to figure out different ways to measure quality research, but the impact factor will probably used as a proxy for article quality for many years to come, partially because people may not know about alternative metrics.
PLOS ONE is just one example. Most Open Access journals are trying to break the mold and change the mindset of some scientists and publishers who still want to limit access to scientific research to the exclusive members of certain clubs and groups. Will you help me change the system?