What is Open Access?

  • Open Access (OA) literature is freely available, peer-reviewed, online scholarly literature which is free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
  • This means it can be freely accessed by anyone in the world, with the potential readership of OA articles being far greater than that for material where the full-text is restricted to subscribers.
  • OA does not affect peer-review - OA repositories supplement and do not replace journals.
  • The legal basis for OA is either the consent of the copyright holder or the public domain, usually the former.
  • Further definitions of OA can be obtained from the Useful Links section. The Budapest Open Access initiative provides a useful definition of OA.

What Open Access isn't - Myths about Open Access

1. Open Access Journals are Not Peer-reviewed

Not true. The economic model and access policy which a journal or publisher follows does not determine its peer review policy. The large majority of academic journals, whether open access or subscription-based, are peer-reviewed. Similarly, there are both open-access and subscription journals/magazines that are not peer-reviewed.
Most major subscription publishers now have an open access option for individual submissions but this does not alter the editorial procedures for each paper submitted. A good explanation of hybrid journals can be found on the MIT libraries website.

2. Open Access Papers are Not Subject to Copyright

Not true. Choosing to publish through an open access route does not mean that the article is not copyrighted; the same options exist. Open access journals may be more likely to offer the author/author’s institution the option to retain their own copyright on published papers and associated data, as well as the moral rights which are always retained, which puts more of an onus on the author for checking that copyright limits and permissions have not been broken, but in either case, the article is still copyrighted, either by you or the publisher. A useful summary can be found on the Eifl website.

3. Open Access Journals are Totally Free

Not true. Open Access articles aim to be always free to the reader, regardless of their means or location, but they do not assume that the processes of peer review, editing, collation and dissemination can be carried out without cost. All journal publications attract these costs, but open access publishers attempt to devolve these costs through alternative business models to subscription. Common models include obtaining revenue through levying Article Processing Charges (APCs) to submitting authors, defraying costs through charging for advertising space, central government or commercial sponsorship, and charging for access to associated review and opinion papers. A good summary can be found in Peter Suber’s Open Access Overview (Paragraph 6).

4. Open Access Journals have Lower Impact Factors (IFs)

Not true. There are high impact factor open access journals across all subjects, with the impact measurements for many OA journals growing as they become more established. (e.g. PLOS One). Listings of OA titles can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals and then reviewed in either the InCites Journal Citation Reports database or the Eigenfactor database.

The evidence is somewhat to the contrary, in that open access articles, whether gold or green, tend to gather citations more quickly in the first few years after publication. A range of studies on this affect can be found on the OpCit Project website.

5. The Vast Majority of Research is Already Openly Available

Not true. While worldwide internet accessibility has greatly expanded the availability of preprints, postprints and final articles, many authors are still constrained by embargoes and publisher policies from making all their research available. The situation is improving, however, with a recent study by Bergstrom indicating that 73% of very recent economics articles published over 25 journals had a free version accessible through a Google search. While there are important and long-running projects to make academic research freely available to developing countries (HINARI – medicine and AGORA - agriculture), participation by publisher varies and not all countries are covered.

6. Depositing my Research Papers in ResearchGate, Mendeley, Academia.edu or other Commercial Repositories is Sufficient to Meet the Open Access Requirements of the HEFCs for REF2020 and UKRI

Not true.  Commercial repositories such as ResearchGate, Academia.edu and Mendeley do not record the specific metadata which the HEFCs require for Open Access recording such as acceptance date, publication date and the lengths of any embargo enforced by the publishers. Such social sites will also not allow the forms of data harvesting and aggregation which UKRI and the HEFCs require to collect and amalgamate publication details to enhance public access.  Additionally, the commercial nature of the servers which host these sites means that their terms of use could change at any point or that the the sites scould simply disappear.  For all these reasons, please make sure you deposit all of your research papers on the Aberystwyth University PURE system as the first priority in making papers open access.

7.  Depositing my Gold Open Access Papers in AU's Aberystwyth Research Portal will Split the Citation and Download Counts for My Articles on the Publisher's Website

Not true.  As Gold open access papers for which APCs have been paid are always cited using the Gold OA journal name rather than the repository name, and as the Aberystwyth Research Portal will always give the full journal citation details with a direct link to the final publisher's OA version of the paper near the top of the record, the proportion of downloading of Gold OA papers from the Aberystwyth Research Portal compared to that from the publisher's website is likely to be very small, and the proportion of citations to Gold OA papers referring only to the repository is likely to be miniscule.  Readers would also need to know the correct repository in which they can find the Gold OA paper they require in advance of starting their search. Taking both of these factors into account, the deposit of Gold OA papers into PURE should not affect either the citation or download statistics from the publisher's website to any significant extent.






Open Access Glossary

Aberystwyth Research Portal
Aberystwyth University’s institutional repository – research.aber.ac.uk, The very best of Aberystwyth University's staff and postgraduate research openly available online, free of charge.

Article processing charge (APC)
A publisher’s fee to cover editorial, peer review, marketing and distribution costs of publishing a Gold Open Access article.

Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM)
The author’s final manuscript as uploaded into the publisher’s formatted page. The AAM is distinguishable from the final published version by the lack of page, volume and issue numbers.

The exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the creator of an original work to print, publish, perform or record academic, literary, artistic or musical materials.

Creative Commons Licenses
A form of licence outlining what a person may do with an open access work where the copyright is held by a third party. Details of these licenses can be found on the Creative Commons (CC) website where the 4 basic elements of the licenses are described: the attribution-only license (CC-BY), the no-derivatives license (CC-BY-ND), the no commercial reuse license (CC-BY-NC), and the ‘share-alike’ principle license (CC-BY-SA) and their various combinations.

Adding a research output such as an article to a repository – accompanied by standard metadata.

E-Journal Aggregators
Companies which bring together the e-journal output from multiple publishers on a single web platform through license arrangements with the primary publishers.

A period during which access to scholarly work is restricted to those who have paid for access. Once the embargo period ends, the full-text of an article in either preprint, postprint or final published version can be deposited in a repository as permitted by the publisher of copyright holder.

Full-Text Version
The complete content of an article, which can include the background research data files associated with the output.

Gold Open Access
A system by which articles which are ‘born open access’ at the time of publication. Fully open access journals mostly charge a fee for such publication.

Green Open Access
Making a version of work (usually a postprint or author-accepted manuscript) available in an open access repository. These can be institutional such as The Aberystwyth Research Portal or subject based, such as arXiv, PubMed Central or RePec. Placing work in ResearchGate or other social media collections is not considered to be Green open access.

HEFCE Open Access Rules
The open access availability rules which the HEFC’s apply for UK higher education authored papers to be eligible for the next Research Excellence Framework exercise, as variously amended at: http://www.hefce.ac.uk/rsrch/oa/

Institutional Repository
An online archive of an institution’s scholarly outputs which can include publications in peer-reviewed journals, books and book-sections, technical reports, working papers, monographs, conference presentations, audio/visual materials, mathematical models or any other research content that has scholarly value.

Data that describes the format and content of material in a repository or database. For items in open access repositories, this usually consists of a minimum of full bibliographic reference, abstract, keywords, any embargo details and web address.

Open Access
The process by which research results can be made freely available to anyone with an internet connection rather than keeping those results hidden behind a subscription paywall.

The author's peer reviewed and corrected manuscript, usually created in Word or LaTeX. When publishers require authors to upload their final postprint version of an article into a formatted page, this document is considered to be the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM)

Any one of the preliminary drafts of an article before it has been peer-reviewed and possibly even before any submission to a publisher.

The Current Research Information System (CRIS) used by Aberystwyth University to manage research metadata and to deposit related publications.  http://pure.aber.ac.uk 

The Research Excellence Framework devised by the UK Higher Education Funding Councils for assessing the quality of research in UK universities and HE colleges.

An online database of Open Access works. Repositories do not undertake peer review but do hold material that has been peer reviewed elsewhere. In addition repositories can hold 'grey literature' such as Theses, Discussion Papers, Datasets and other material.

Scholarly Communication / Output
A piece of research content, including articles, books, chapters, technical reports, working papers, monographs, conference presentations, audio/visual materials, research datasets, mathematical models and sequence data amongst others.

Sherpa Databases
A set of databases detailing the Open Access requirements of journals, publishers and research funders and allowing the matching of Open Access requirements between these sub-sets (e.g. for HEFC REF eligibility requirements)

Subject Repository
An online archive of open access literature in particular fields e.g. PubMed Central and arXiv. Can include preprints, postprints or final versions of articles as determined by the repositories’ own rules or publishers’ conditions.

UKRI Open Access Rules
The open access availability rules which UKRI applies for papers to be eligible for assessment in the award of future UKRI grants – as variously amended at: http://www.ukri.org/funding/information-for-award-holders/open-access/open-access-policy/