We’ll start at the very beginning by looking at the basics of Open Access – what exactly is Open Access, and what does it mean for your publishing journey?
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Open Access is defined as a broad international movement. An open access publication is one where there are no financial, legal, or technical barriers to accessing the publication – as such, anyone can read, download, copy, distribute, and use it legally.
There are many different aspects of Open Access, and it’s important to understand the difference between a traditional subscription or paywalled article and an article that’s been published open access.
Let’s look at an example of a closed article from the US-based publisher, Wiley, showing the technical and financial barriers that would require a subscription to gain access.
Conversely, you can have another article from the same publisher that was published open access where there are no restrictions, and you can simply download the pdf freely as it appears in a print version, and you can save it to read later.
Additionally, the concept of ‘archiving’ comes into play – explained as an alternative option where a closed article in either a subscription or hybrid journal can be archived and made open. Archiving allows you to archive the full text of your article in an institutional repository, and while it isn't the final pdf that’s available, you’ll still be able to share your article for people to read.
So, there are, in fact, different ways to make an article freely available to the public. Again, while the open access route allows you to make the final version freely accessible directly on the publisher’s website with no delays, archiving allows you to place the author accepted manuscript (AAM version) into an institutional or a subject repository. However, this usually includes an embargo period, i.e. a certain time period you'd have to wait until the final version is live.
One of the fundamental components of Open Access is the cost associated with publishing open access, the so-called article processing charge (APC) – a fee that the author pays to the publisher to make the article available open access.
It covers elements such as running peer review, copy editing, and typesetting. There are different journal types, and you can investigate if your desired journal is open access through various journal finders. See our collection of resources for inspiration.
Open Access is the one option whereas 'hybrid journals' comprise a mixture of closed and open journals, which means that the author typically has to make a choice: am I going to pay an APC and make it available for everyone to read, or do I choose not to pay but then have others pay to access it?
Why do authors publish open access?
The first is a mandate, as the author may be required to take the open access route based on, for instance, funder requirements, requirements put forward by an institutional policy, or a national strategy. Often, if an author is funded by public money, the research should also be made publicly available – and the funder may also require a certain license.
The other reason is choice. The author may want to publish their work open access because it can contribute to wider readership and impact, more engagement and citations, and, ultimately, greater exposure.
The disadvantage of Open Access can be the cost. If you don’t have funding or if your institution doesn’t pay, it can be a struggle. And it can cause confusion which might cut authors off, and they’ll choose closed access as the easiest solution. If you want to learn more about costs associated with open access publishing, i.e., APCs, please see section 2 in this guide.
Wider readership of your articles
Greater exposure means a higher usage of open access content: more downloads, more citations, more references, and thereby more impact!
No barriers to access as anyone from around the world can read the published article
No subscription costs for libraries and universities
FIND OPEN ACCESS ARTICLES TO READ
FIND OPEN ACCESS VERSION OF CLOSED ACCESS ARTICLES
CHECK WHAT YOU’RE ALLOWED TO DO WITH AN ARTICLE
"Open Access lifts the barrier to accessing and reading research articles"
Hybrid Open Access = Open Access Publishing
In a hybrid journal, where open access and closed access articles co-exist. APC applies for open access articles.
Gold Open Access = Open Access Publishing
In a gold or fully open access journal with only open access articles.
Some gold journals charge APCs, others do not.
Bronze = Open Access Publishing
Articles are made free-to-read on the publisher's website, without an explicit open license. This could be for a limited time only, for example a promotion, or due to special circumstances like Covid-19. No APCs.
Diamond/Platinum = Open Access Publishing
Publish open access and the fees are covered by the publisher through other models such as volunteer work, donations, subsidies, and grants. No APCs.
Green Open Access = Archiving
Publish in the journal of your choice, deposit a version of the publication (the final publisher version, or Version of Record (VoR), or the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM)) in a repository and make it publicly available in open access, sometimes after an embargo period set by the publisher. Generally, no APCs.
Want to learn more?
When do I need to decide to publish open access?
It depends on the publisher’s workflow and journals. For Gold journals, you’ll know when you submit that it’s open access since all articles in a Gold journal are OA. For hybrid journals, some publishers will ask you during submission but need the final confirmation post-acceptance.
Is peer review the same for open access articles?
Yes. There’s no difference in peer review if you publish open access or closed access.
Who can request an article to be published open access?
Only the author of the manuscript can request an article to be open access. Funders of the published work may request open access with express written permission from the author.
Am I free to share my article if it’s published open access?
Yes, you are if it’s published under the Creative Commons License.
I would like to publish in a journal that offers a 'Gold Route’. Is this the same as a gold OA journal?
No. It is likely a hybrid journal that has described the open access publishing option as 'gold'.
The publisher offers their own OA license. Is this the same as a Creative Commons license?
No. Check with your funder or institution to make sure that the license will meet their requirements.
WHAT ARE ARTICLE PROCESSING CHARGES?
An article processing charge (APC) is the charge that’s paid to the publisher so the article can be made freely accessible upon publication. This means that the cost has moved from ‘paying to read’ to ‘paying to publish’.
Because Open Access provides free access to your research, it has the opportunity to engage a wider readership for your articles. This is an important enabler for Open Science, a new movement within scientific research that strives to create greater openness and transparency in the research community in terms of publications and data.
The idea behind Open Science is to remove all barriers at any stage of the research process and allow for unhindered access to all information, data, and outputs in the entire research cycle.