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Open Access: What is Open Access?

Open Access

Open Access research is freely available to anyone that has an internet connection, not just to those who can afford expensive subscriptions to academic journals. The majority of research carried out at universities is publicly funded and making findings available via Open Access means that members of the public can access this research. Open Access research also has clear re-use rights that allow people to build upon and develop research and for activities such as text mining. More information can be found in the copyright and licences section.

There are two types of Open Access: Green Open Access and Gold Open Access.


Green Open Access (no cost, delayed)

Green Open Access research is published via the subscription model where a cost is charged for access, but it is also made available for free in an online repository after an embargo period specified by the publisher. Embargo periods differ depending on the publisher but can typically be between 6 and 24 months.

Publishers and journals vary in their policies about what can be made available via Green Open Access but in general it tends to be the Author Accepted Manuscript (the version that has undergone peer review but not yet been published).

The SHERPA RoMEO database provides details on individual journal and publisher policies on Green Open Access.


Gold Open Access (paid for, immediate)

Gold Open Access research is made freely available immediately upon publication on the publisher's website once a fee has been paid. This fee is typically know as an article processing charge (APC) and can range in cost from as little as £200 to as much as £5000. There are two different types of academic journals when it comes to Gold Open Access:-

  • Fully Gold journals' content is always published via Gold Open Access and therefore a fee must be paid to publish.
  • Hybrid journals give you a choice of whether you want to publish via Gold Open Access or via the subscription model. The cost of APCs are usually significantly higher in Hybrid journals than in Fully Gold journals.


Benefits of Open Access

Benefits for researchers

  • If more people can read your work, they are more likely to cite it (find out how Open Access affects citations).
  • Most research funders require outputs arising from research they fund be made available on an Open Access basis.
  • More people having access to your research, means more opportunities to form new research collaborations.
  • Greater control over what you and other people can do with your own research outputs (subscription-based publishing often requires you to sign away all copyright in your outputs, limiting what you can do with them).

Benefits for readers and wider society

  • Those outside of academia have greater access to research such as practitioners, policy makers, charities, small businesses and independent researchers. 
  • Smaller institutions and institutions in developing countries have access to research that they otherwise would not have been able to afford. See case studies on how access to research has directly benefited institutions and projects in developing countries. 
  • Ensuring that those who actually provide the money for publicly-funded research (i.e. tax-payers) have access to the outputs they have funded.
  • To put this into context, if you are not a member of an institution that is able to pay subscription charges, to purchase a single journal article will usually cost around $30.