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What is Open Access Publishing?


It means that access to your paper (or other research output) is free and available to anyone, anyone can read and download your paper. Normally, this should also be accompanied by few restrictions on copy and use by others, for more information see Licensing below.
For a more formal definition, you might want to have a look at the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities here

Some help with terminology

Open Access Journals

These are journals that publish every article with open access. If you pay a publication fee (or article processing charge, APC), this will automatically cover open access to your article. Normally, your article is then published under a Creative Commons License (see below).
The directory of open access journals (https://doaj.org/) is a very useful resource if you would like to find an open access journal in your research area. If you would like to find out whether your favourite journal is open access, you can check it here: http://sherpa.mimas.ac.uk/romeo/index.php

Hybrid Journals

These are journals that do NOT publish every article with open access but offer the option to make your article open access if you pay a fee. Note that this fee will have to be paid in addition to other fees (e.g. page charges, colour charge) that you have to pay for publication in that journal. Also note, that you might not necessarily retain copyright of your work. Copyright might still remain with the journal publisher even if you have chosen to pay the open access fee. In most cases, there are two different routes to open access in hybrid journals: gold and green open access.

Gold Open Access

This means that your article is immediately available with open access. It also normally means that the article is published under a Creative Commons License (see below) but always check the journal's policy.

Green Open Access

This allows self-archiving of the final version of your article in an institutional depository (such as Oxford University’s repository ORA, https://ora.ox.ac.uk/) or archives such as PubMed Central. In most cases self-archived versions of your article can only be made publicly available after an embargo period imposed by the publisher. Many publishers request that copyright is transferred from the author to the publisher, although in some cases the author retains their own copyright and grant the publisher a license to publish. Again, you will need to check the journal's policy and you may consider negotiating with your publisher to obtain the permissions to use your work as you prefer.

Licensing


Every publisher handles this in their own way, so always make sure you have a look at the journal's policy. If you would like to publish open access according to the definition above, you should not transfer copyright to the publisher and your work should be published under a Creative Commons License. If your research is funded by an external funding agency (e.g. RCUK or Wellcome Trust), you may be required to publish under a specific licence as a condition of award. Here is an explanation of the different CC licenses.

CC BY (attribution alone):

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.

CC BY-SA (attribution, share alike):

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

CC BY-ND (attribution, no derivatives):

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

CC BY-NC (attribution, non-commercial):

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

CC BY-NC-SA (attribution, non-commercial, share alike):

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

CC-BY-NC-ND (attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives):

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

Ethical publishing

You may or may not be aware of controversies around the business model of large publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, or SAGE, which have been illustrated in documentaries like https://paywallthemovie.com/.

So far, this model has been to let authors (i.e. their institutions or funders) pay fees to get a paper published in a particular journal and then let institutions pay for access to this article so that the authors' colleagues can read it.  You might think that this sounds like a huge waste of taxpayers' money and that immediate open access to all research output is a worthwhile goal.

Rather than paying the extortionate fees that traditional publishers demand for gold open access of your article, you might want to have a look at these journals/ publishers, which offer open access immediately and are either non-profit publishers and/or re-invest profits in research or education: