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Guide to Open Access

Open access

Open Access is the free and unrestricted online access to publications: to read, download and re-use, subject to proper attribution. Most funders require research outputs to be made available for free to maximise the benefits of the research. Open access is also a requirement for submissions to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The main routes to Open Access are:

  • Gold Open Access: Immediate Open Access on the publisher’s site, usually in exchange for a fee called an Article Processing Charge (APC) or Book Processing Charge (BPC)
    • There are a number of different models for journals:
      • Subscription (hybrid) journals that offer a Gold Open Access option for an individual article by payment of an APC
      • Gold Open Access journals which do not have subscriptions and in which all articles are Open Access, usually by payment of an APC
      • Diamond Open Access is almost identical to Gold but there is no APC or fee for publishing. These journals are often funded by organisations, institutions, or other initiatives.
    • There is a wide range of options for publishing Open Access books and monographs, ranging from scholar led presses, learned societies and large commercial publishers. Many different models of Open Access monograph publishing are emerging. Some, but not all charge a BPC.
  • Green Open Access: Depositing research in an institutional or subject repository. The version deposited is normally the author's final accepted manuscript. It may be closed access on the repository for an embargo period after publication. However, major funders increasingly require immediate Open Access which may be done by using the Rights retention Strategy

Open Access publications are licensed to indicate this status and to state how they can be re-used. Creative Commons licences e.g. the creative commons attribution licence (CC BY) are most commonly used.

This video gives a basic introduction to open access and highlights some of the reasons why it is important.

To learn more about open access, have a go at The Puzzling Hunt for Open Access. In this online tutorial, a villain has locked away all research at the University of Essex and you must solve a range of puzzles to make research open again! Think you have what it takes to defeat the villain?! Start the puzzle now!

For a more in-depth overview of Open Access complete our Introduction to Open Access online tutorial to learn more about:

  • What open access is, and why it is important
  • Ways to find open access content
  • Ways to publish open access
  • Research funders
  • Plan S

Publishing open access

There are several ways to publish open access, as explained in both our open access guide, and in the University's open access guidance. Here at Essex, our publications policy approved by Senate in July 2015 is that all publications are uploaded via the Research Information System (RIS) to the University of Essex Research Repository and, where possible, made open access, whether this be via the Green, Gold, or Diamond route. You can read more about the University of Essex' position on open access by downloading our Open Research Position Statement.

Open Access publishing options.

Green Open Access

If you are publishing a journal article in a subscription access journal you will need to deposit the Author Accepted Manuscript (the peer reviewed text before any formatting and typesetting by the publisher). This should be done within three months of acceptance for publication using the Research Information System (RIS).

For Open Access compliance with the REF, journal articles and conference papers that appear in published proceedings volumes should always be deposited wit in three months of acceptance.

As of January 2023, books and chapters do not need to be deposited to comply with the REF Open Access policy. You can usually deposit the accepted version of a book chapter although it may be subject to an embargo period. It is very unlikely that publisher copyright policy would allow you to deposit the full text of a monograph however you may be able to deposit a sample chapter.

Gold Open Access

If you are the corresponding author of a journal article in a subscription access journal it may be eligible to be published gold Open Access without a fee (APC) under a read and publish agreement. Check the University Library web pages for details of the current agreements and how to use them.

For fully gold Open Access journals ie those that charge a fee (APC) to publish but don't charge readers for access, the university may be able to help with APC costs. For UKRI funded research where a grant is acknowledged we can pay APCs from the UKRI Open Access block grant. Additionally, there is university funding that may be able to cover the cost of gold OA fees for unfunded research. In either case you should contact repository@essex.ac.uk or ressup@essex.ac.uk to find out more.

There is no fee for publishing diamond Open Access. Journals are often funded by organisations, institutions, or other initiatives. Whilst diamond Open Access often receives the least attention, as of July 2020, 73% of journals on the Directory of Open Access Journals database were Diamond open access.

Diamond Open Access

There is no fee for publishing diamond Open Access. Journals are often funded by organisations, institutions, or other initiatives. Whilst diamond Open Access often receives the least attention, as of July 2020, 73% of journals on the Directory of Open Access Journals database were Diamond open access.

Funded research and Plan S

If your research is funded, there may be a requirement to publish your work open access.Increasingly, funders' open access policies are aligned with Plan S. Plan S is a set of rules established by cOAlition S - a group of international research funders. There are many funders who are part of cOAlition S, including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Wellcome. All cOAlition S funders must align their open access policies with Plan S.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a member of cOAlition S. Their open access policy reflects the principles of Plan S, and aligns with these policies. To read more about the UKRI's open access policy, head to the UKRI website or have a look at their FAQ document. As noted above, funding may be available to cover the cost of Open Access publication fees in an output that acknowledges UUK Research Council funding, contact repository@essex.ac.uk or ressup@essex.ac.uk for further details.

Full details of Plan S can be seen on the Plan S website, but in short Plan S and UKRI wants full and immediate access to all publicly funded research. To achieve this, there are three routes to compliance:

  • Publish in a gold or diamond open access journal
  • Publish in a hybrid/subscription journal that is covered by a transformative agreement
  • Publish via the green route (i.e., deposit the full text of your work in a repository) but with a zero-month embargo period

Rights Retention Strategy

The green route is a compliant route with most research funders, but in many cases, it is likely that there will need to be a zero month embargo period. This is the case for cOAlition S funded research including research funded by UKRI.

This requirement can be problematic if the journal you are publishing with stipulates that there should be an embargo period on green open access publishing. If you see this mismatch between funder and journal policies, and you have not made your work available open access via the gold or hybrid route, you may need to use the rights retention strategy.

The rights retention strategy is a statement developed by cOAlition S that authors place on their work when submitting to a journal. The statement must say that the author has placed a CC BY licence on either the author accepted manuscript or version of record of their paper. By placing this prior licence on the publication, the author retains copyright on this version of the paper, and therefore can deposit that version in a repository with no embargo period, regardless of the journal policy.

Different funders offer slightly different template wording for the rights retention strategy statement, and some funders may require you to add this wording on all submissions regardless of the route you are using for compliance. An example of wording can be seen below

"This research was funded in whole or in part by [Funder] [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) version arising from this submission.

Your own funder should stipulate if there is a required format for use of the rights retention strategy, but if you have any questions at all please do get in touch.

For more information about rights retention, and complying with the UKRI's new open access policy, listen to this 20 minute podcast by the University of Cambridge.

Open Access: 12 key concerns answered

The resource below answers twelve common concerns around open access. This resource was designed by the Eastern Arc OA and Scholarly Communications Group. Read more on Eastern Arc's website.

Eastern Arc - 12 Common concerns around opena access - booklet cover