Knowledge Dissemination in a Virtual World: Open Access

Knowledge Dissemination in a Virtual World: Open Access

Blog post by InspireNet's Manager Pat Atherton & Co-Leader Noreen Frisch

How do we bring new and innovative information to people searching for ideas, knowledge and guidance in a Web 2.0 environment? The open access movement and InspireNet aim to change the way we disseminate information in a virtual world.

Open Access Journals & Repositories

What is open access? Open access means sharing your research findings digitally, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Learn more about open access at Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL)’s website.

More publications are moving to open access, although there remains controversy about this (see Peter Suber’s The Guardian article on this topic: Open access: six myths to put to rest). Tri-council, that being Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), states on their open access webpage:

Information and communications technology, and in particular the advent of the Internet, has transformed the way that science and scholarly research is conducted and communicated. Indicative of this changing landscape has been the steady growth in open access publishing and archiving which facilitate widespread diffusion and free digital access to publications and the latest discoveries. Open access enables researchers to make their research results freely available to the domestic and international research community and to the public at large thereby enhancing the use, application and impact of research results.

CIHR’s policy on open access encourages grant proposals to include funding for open access publication. Their policy states “CIHR has a fundamental interest in ensuring that the findings that result from the research it funds…are available to the widest possible audience, and at the earliest possible opportunity.”

According to the CARL in their document Greater Reach for Your Research: Expanding Readership Through Digital Repositories: “A growing number of research funders are requiring that funded research be made openly available.”

There are two formal ways to spread your findings via open access: open access journals and open access repositories.


How do you go about publishing in an open access journal? We recommend that you budget between $1,000 - $2,500 per article in your grant proposal for this purpose. You can check the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) to find journals and learn about their fees to be exact. If you are on faculty at a university, ask your institution's library about open access author funding as some Canadian university libraries are setting up funds to help faculty cover open access publishing costs.

Journal publishing through open access can be tricky, however.  Researchers and writers need to know that the journals they are considering are legitimate and that peer review is actually being carried out by scholars the researchers would recognize as ‘peers’.  There are some that have taken advantage of the open access mandates and have set up ‘scholarly journals’ that might be nothing more than a sham to accept payment from authors with little or no deliverables such as archived editions and indexing in reputable databases (such as CINAHL or PubMed).  Nurse researchers might find an editorial published in Journal of Advanced Nursing (Watson, Cleary, Jackson & Hunt, 2012) helpful as it presents information on 11 open access, English language, peer-reviewed journals in nursing that were retrieved from a search of relevant databases. Further, there is a website,, run by a librarian that purports to list predatory publishers so that researchers might avoid named journals or approach with caution (Broome, 2014).  Lastly, the science journal Nature published a commentary on open access journals that includes a checklist of actions that represent due diligence in selecting an open access publication (Butler, 2013).  Butler’s actions include ensuring that verifiable contact information is on the journal’s website, that the editor’s and editorial board names are listed and can be verified, that the policy on fees is clearly stated, and the peer-review process is clearly described. Writers are cautioned about e-mail solicitations to publish or become editorial board members in unknown journals. The DOAJ mentioned above does screen for journals of quality and may be a good place for researchers to begin their search for open access journals.                  

Once funding is secured and a journal is selected, publishing in an open access journal is just like publishing in a non-open access journal. Your manuscript is submitted for peer-review, but the process is expedited, getting your findings into the public domain quicker.

Open access repositories

You may be able to deposit your non-open access peer reviewed published article into an open access repository. See CARL’s webpage for details.

Leveraging InspireNet

InspireNet’s >3,600 members mean you have access to a critical mass of BC’s healthcare community for knowledge dissemination through webinars or blog posts, which are promoted through biweekly electronic newsletters to all members.

InspireNet Webinars

“One of the real revolutions in the reporting of science has been YouTube,” states Harvard University chemist George Whitesides, in this video about the new role of video in scientific communication.

While other options exist, like, through InspireNet’s Virtual Podium program, we offer members support and free use of our electronic platform to produce webinars and recordings for research dissemination to InspireNet members and on the open internet.

What's involved? You can present a slide deck of your research or evaluation project using InspireNet's Cisco WebEx account. This gives you an easy opportunity to do a webinar for a 'real time' audience and to have it recorded for others to view at their leisure on InspireNet's website, open to the general public. You can expect to present for 1 hour: 40 minutes for your presentation and 20 minutes for discussion/ Q&A. We'll do the support: providing orientation to WebEx, if you wish; being there to launch your session; recording and uploading your session to InspireNet's website; promoting your session to InspireNet's members via our biweekly eNews and to the larger health care community using our social media channels (Twitter and Facebook). While InspireNet’s virtual podium does not include a peer-review of your work as would occur in a scholarly publication, the virtual podium does get your information out to many who would most likely not read your journal article but who might have immediate interest in using your findings in actual practice environments. Videos of research findings and new ideas presents us with a possibility of ‘splitting’ our audiences and getting information to both the practice and the scholarly community through different venues (and of course, cross referencing for those who would like both!).       

InspireNet Blog posts

Did you know that InspireNet’s blog has had almost 20,000 people reads its posts? Posts are written by InspireNet members sharing their ideas on a number of topics and are available on the open internet to anyone searching on those topics. InspireNet member researchers and evaluators are welcome to use this powerful tool to expand their reach in knowledge dissemination to InspireNet members and visitors around the world.

Visit the blog:


  • Broome, M.E. (2014). Open access publishing:  A disruption innovation.  Nursing Outlook, 64, 69-71.
  • Butler, D. (2013). Investigating journals: the dark side of publishing, Nature, 495, 433-5.  
  • Watson, R., Cleary, M, Jackson, D., & Hunt, G. (2012).  Open access and online publishing:  a new frontier in nursing?  Journal of Advanced Nursing, 68, 1905-08.

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