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Open access

What is open access?

Open access is a publishing model in which publications are made freely available online.  In some cases the end user may be given additional rights to reuse the work e.g. through a Creative Commons licence.  In academic publishing we most often think of open access in the context of journals, but other types of publications and creative works can also be made available open access.

Benefits of publishing open access

Open access publications are accessible to a wider audience which brings a number of benefits:

  • Equitable access to research.  Subscription journals are often unaffordable for members of the public and for researchers in smaller institutions or developing countries.  Publishing open access removes this barrier.
  • Profile raising.  Publishing open access can bring publicity to a university's research work and raise the profile of individual researchers. Open access publications are also more likely to receive citations.
  • Advancing research.  Open access publishing allows researchers to more easily access the work of others so they can build on that work or avoid repeating studies that have already been done. 

Types of open access

There are a number of different types of open access:

  • Gold.  The final published version (version of record) is available free to the reader.  The author's institution pays a fee a cover the costs of publication.  For journal articles this is known as an article processing charge (APC).
  • Diamond.  As with gold open access, the final published version is available free to the reader but the author's institution doesn't have to pay anything to publish.  The costs of publication are covered by adverts or funding from a professional body or other funder.
  • Hybrid.  Part of a publication, that is otherwise behind a paywall, is made open access e.g. an individual journal article published open access in a subscription journal.  As with gold open access, the author's institution pays a fee to cover publication costs. 
  • Green.  The final published version is behind a paywall, but the author is allowed to archive a copy in an institutional or other repository.  The version that can be archived is usually the author accepted manuscript (also called a post-print).  This is the version after peer review but before any publisher formatting is applied.
  • Bronze.  This refers to publications that a publisher has independently decided to make open access.  Typically there would be no licence allowing reuse and access may be withdrawn at any time.

Open access policies

If your research is externally funded, it's important to ensure that you comply with your funder's open access policy.  You may be required to make any research outputs resulting from your research project available in an open access form.  Use the JISC Sherpa Juliet service to check funders' current open access policies.

The University also has its own Open Access Policy which is in line with that of the UKRI.  Essential points to note are:

  • Researchers should create records for all of their research outputs in Pure
  • Journals articles should be made available in an open access form without embargo
  • Monographs and chapters published after 1st Jan 2024 should be made available in an open access form without embargo
  • Researchers are encouraged to make other outputs available in an open access form wherever possible

The open access policy for the next REF has not yet been produced so researchers should continue to follow the REF2021 guidelines until the new policy is available:

  • The policy applies to journal articles or conference proceedings published in a publication with an ISSN
  • Outputs should be published as gold open access, or the author accepted manuscript should be deposited in Pure
  • If deposited in Pure, this must take place within three months of acceptance for publication

Transformative agreements

The Library subscribes to journal packages from a number of publishers.  In addition to providing access to the subscribed journals, some of these contracts also cover the costs of article processing charges, allowing researchers to publish open access for free.  These agreements are known as transformative (or read and publish) agreements.  The terms and conditions of each agreement will vary so there may be restrictions on which of the publisher's journals are covered, or there may be a limit on the number of articles that can be published each year.  We currently have transformative agreements with Elsevier, SAGE, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley.

To publish in a journal covered by a transformative agreement, you should submit your article for publication following the usual procedure for the publisher.  The publisher will identify that your article is eligible under the transformative agreement and alert the Research Office who will then confirm that the article should be published open access.  You will receive an email notification to let you know that your article will be published open access and at this point you may be offered a choice of Creative Commons licences.

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