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Open access (OA) is the practice of making scholarly material (eg journal articles, book chapters) freely available via the internet. Institutional and subject repositories are collections of open access research, and preserve the material on a long-term basis. There are currently over 150 institutional or departmental repositories in the UK (Registry of Open Access Repositories); worldwide there are over 3200 (OpenDOAR).
In order to support open access at St George’s, University of London, we have developed an institutional repository called SORA (St George's Online Research Archive). SORA is publicly accessible and holds details of publications written by St George’s researchers. Additionally, there are also open access subject repositories such as Europe PubMed Central (Europe PMC – formerly UK PubMed Central) where researchers can deposit their research outputs.
A useful overview
of open access is provided by Peter Suber.
Many research funders will have policies regarding making published outputs available on an open access basis. If in any doubt, please check with your funder(s).
You can view a list of the Europe PubMed Central funding organisations who expect research outputs arising from research that they have funded to be made freely and readily available. There is also a list of research funders with open access information at SHERPA JULIET, or for advice please email the library.
In 2021 the Wellcome Trust are further strengthening their Open Access Policy. Key summary details can be found here. The updated OA policy will apply to all research articles submitted for publication from 1 January 2021, and the changes mean that it aligns more closely in timing and aims with Plan S.
St George’s position on open access is contained in our Research Publications policy
. This requires that published outputs be available on an open access basis in full text via St George’s institutional repository, SORA
(where publishers’ copyright agreements allow), and that St George’s researchers should comply with the publication policies of research funders with regards to open access.
Open access is a topic that those involved in higher education cannot ignore, due to changes in funders policies since the Finch report (2012) , and the Government response to it. The UKRI Open Access Policy for REF 2021 further shows the importance placed on making publicly funded research openly available.
Research by Alma Swan reviewing various studies found a positive open access citation advantage in 27 vs 4 studies: Swan, Alma (2010) The Open Access citation advantage: Studies and results to date.
An overview of other studies up to 2015 can be found on the SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) website: The Open Access Citation Advantage Service.
More recently, the 2019 Digital Science report: The Ascent of Open Access analysed Open Access trends between 2000 and 2016 and amoung the findings were publishing in Open Access venues optimised citation and Altmetric attention.
Benefits to St George’s of an open access institutional repository, SORA
SORA, St George’s institutional repository, has significant benefits for the institution because it provides:
- a showcase for all of St George’s, University of London research outputs
- increased visibility of St George’s research – the repository content is indexed by Google and in the library's new discovery tool Hunter
- potential for increased research collaboration
- potential to attract research students
- long-term preservation of St George’s research outputs.
Benefits for researchers
Researchers also benefit from providing open access to their work. These benefits include:
- new opportunities for collaboration
- research outputs are more easily accessible and visible
- potential for increased citations
- ready, perpetual, access to a researcher’s published work.
Benefits for society
As authors worldwide increasingly begin to make their research outputs openly accessible, wider society will also benefit in the following ways:
- journal articles can be accessed even if an individual’s library does not have a subscription to a particular journal
- UK taxpayers will be able to get ready access to the research they fund
- people in developing countries will be able to get access to up-to-date research.
The rights you retain over your work can vary considerably. When you or your co-authors sign a copyright transfer agreement or a licence form, this can mean many re-use rights are at the publisher’s discretion. You can check what rights are granted back to you by checking these agreements, and there will usually be a copyright statement on the published version which should indicate who holds the copyright and what the permitted reuse rights are. If the work contains any third party copyright material, it is your responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holders to reproduce the work.
Green open access means making the author’s version of a published research output available via an institutional or subject repository. Traditionally, there has been a distinction made by publishers with regards to which version of the publication can be deposited where no open access fee has been paid, and there may be embargo periods which restrict how soon after publication the author’s version can be made available. For more information on the terms for versions of an article, please refer to 'I'm confused about the terms for different versions of the article, what do they mean?
Gold open access means that the published version of the research is made available on a freely accessible basis via the publisher’s website.
This is most usually by the payment of an open access fee, often referred to as an APC (article processing charge).
The term ‘gold’ may also be used to refer to journals that operate on a totally open access model, for example PLOS One
, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
and Nucleic Acids Research
. The funding model of such journals means that all content is accessible for free, publishing costs being met by, for example, author payments or institutional memberships.
Bronze open access refers to articles that are free to read on the publisher's website, but are still published under the publisher's standard terms and conditions. These articles are typically not published under an open license allowing for re-use, and the publisher can choose to make these articles closed access again at any time.
Diamond open access, sometimes called platinum open access, means that the published version of an article is made freely accessible via the publisher's website under an open access license, but without charging a fee to the authors or their institutions.
As neither the author or reader is charged directly, diamond open access publications usually rely on external funding sources, such as grants, donations or advertising.
This usually describes a journal which operates under a subscription-based model, but also gives the option for articles to be published as open access upon payment of an APC (see below).
Pre-print: a version of an article as submitted to a journal, or pre-print platform, but prior to peer review changes (pre-prints are not made available in SORA).
Post-print / authors’ accepted manuscript / authors’ final version: this is the version of your paper as accepted for publication, including any changes following peer review, but prior to publisher typesetting, formatting and copyright statements.
Publisher version: the article as published.
There are tools to help you navigate journal and funder policies for open access, and which versions of your article you can share and how, on the SHERPA website
If one of the Creative Commons (CC) licences is applied to your work, this identifies exactly what re-use rights are allowed. There are different types of CC licences, some more restrictive than others. Your work should still be correctly cited and attributed to you.
The CC BY licence is the most open, and the CC BY-NC-ND is the most restrictive, and there are several other options in between.
Please be aware that your funder may require that you make publications arising from research they have funded, either in whole or in part, available under a specific type of CC licence. Several of the major funders require CC-BY where their funds are used to pay for the open access publication charges.
APC stands for article processing charge. This is a payment made to the publisher prior to publication so that the published research output is freely available on an open access basis immediately on publication via the publisher’s website.
If your funder requires publication on an open access basis, they may ask that you incorporate anticipated open access publication costs into your grant application, or allow for reimbursement in another way.
If you are considering submitting an article to a journal or publishing platform where a charge is due for open access, please refer to the Applying for funds for open access publication fees guidance at the top of this page.
If the article has arisen from research funded by more than one funder, where block grant funding is available, the cost of making the paper available on open access should be split proportionally.
Please indicate this on the open access claim form. The most restrictive publication terms of the funders should be complied with, as to not do so would make the publication non-compliant with that funder. Please get in touch with the funders or email us
if you require further guidance.
Check via SHERPA/FACT
. SHERPA/FACT is a tool to help researchers check if the journals in which they wish to publish comply with their funder's requirements for open access.
If you have been contacted by a publisher whose credentials you are unsure of, you may wish to check for the journal in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) which indexes and provides access to quality open access, peer-reviewed journals. You can also have a look at Think, Check, Submit which guides you through some questions when you are considering choosing a publisher. If you have any further queries, contact the library via email.
ORCID stands for the open researcher and contributor ID. It’s free to sign up for one, and can be used across different information systems to disambiguate researchers and their research outputs.
There is a list
of some of the publishers, societies and system suppliers integrating use of ORCIDs into their systems. See the Wellcome Trust blog post
to see why Wellcome Trust support adoption of this ID standard.
There are various ways to find open access versions of articles that are otherwise only available with a subscription to the journal (or by paying an access fee). These include:
- Unpaywall: this is a browser extension for Firefox and Google Chrome. Once you’ve installed it, any time you find an article behind a paywall, you can click on the padlock icon on the right hand side of the screen and be taken straight to an open access version of the article, if there’s one available.
- CORE (Connecting Repositories) aggregates open access research outputs from repositories and journals worldwide.
- Dimensions is a system allowing search & discovery of articles. The free to access version also allows you to click through to open access articles by virtue of having Unpaywall data integrated into the Dimensions database.
- Kopernio (previously Canary Haz), part of the same company that includes Web of Science and EndNote, helps you find open access versions of articles including those on pre-print servers. You will need to register to use. If you are at an institution which is set up to allow for searching of university-subscribed content beyond open access content, signing up with your university email will allow for this enhanced searching facility.
- OA DOI: if you know the DOI (digital object identifier) of the article you’re looking for, you can paste it onto the end of this web address – https://oadoi.org/ – to find open access versions of the article.
- Open Access Button: a similar tool to Unpaywall, this also allows you to search for an article directly from their website and request copies of articles from authors.