Students Staff
University of Essex

October 24, 2017

Introduction to Open Access

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — sjkelly @ 11:41 am

Open in order to...

Open Access is a hot topic in publishing at the moment, though it is infamous for being confusing and can therefore be something researchers and support providers shy away from. Fear not, as yesterday marked the beginning of the global Open Access week; the Digital Skills Group is here to explain Open Access with the help from two researchers and our very own repository manager.

So, what is Open Access?

If a publication is Open Access, it simply means that it is free to read, download and reuse. There have been a huge increase of Open Access publications in the UK; a lot of this is due to new policies from funders (e.g. RCUK and Wellcome Trust) or HEFCE. This has had a large impact on research in the UK, for example; Journal articles and some conference proceedings submitted to the next REF must be Open Access in order to be eligible. Our team checked in on Jim Jamieson, our Institutional Repository Manager to see how University of Essex is dealing with the new Open Access requirements.

“Since HEFCE’s new policy in April 2016, consistently about 80% of all articles in our repository are Open Access” – Jim Jamieson

From this statement you might think we don’t need to create awareness, but a lot of articles are Open Access simply due to the work by Jim Jamieson (not to mention our new Research Information System – managed by our Research Systems Manager, Phineas Wenlock , which has made depositing publications and tracking citations a lot easier!). However, it is not Jim Jamieson’s responsibility to make sure publications are Open Access, so here’s a quick introduction:

How do you make a publication Open Access?

There are two main routes:

Gold Open Access OA2This means publishing in an Open Access journal. The article is peer reviewed and an Article Processing Charge (APC) is paid by the author when the manuscript is accepted. Once published, it is immediately accessible online free of charge via the Journal.

Ps. the University of Essex have funding to pay for Gold Open Access for any research funded by RCUK. Email Jim Jamieson at to find out more.

One thing to be aware of with Open Access Journals is something called predatory journals – these journals are only interested in money, and will accept any manuscript as long as the fee is paid. Predatory journals often contact authors asking for manuscript, so if you or your colleagues receive an email like this, just ignore it.

If you want to check whether the journal you want to publish with is safe you can use the Think.Check.Submit. Checklist. Alternatively (or in addition) you can also find safe and trusted Open Access journals via DOAj (Directory of Open Access Journals).


Silke Paulmann from the Psychology Department is an example of one of our academics who has been embracing the Gold Open Access route to make sure her publications are REF eligible. She chose this route because the publishing timeline is quicker and more automatic, therefore making it a more convenient option for her. In addition, most of the Open Access articles she has published have a strong focus on quality rather than novelty alone, and are therefore ideally suited to complement her publications in more traditional outlets.

Green Open Access OA4

This route is probably the more common, but sometimes less known way to Open Access. Wait… How on earth can that be possible? Green Open Access means that you are able to add a copy of an accepted manuscript to a repository, for example our institutional repository (see how to deposit to the repository via the RIS here).

PS. If you take the Green Open Access route you may NOT add an identical copy of the published version; it has to be a version without the formatting from the journal.

Please note that most, but not all journals allow authors to do this. If you want to check restrictions for a specific journal, you can use an online tool called Sherpa/Romeo. In the example below we have searched for Nature, and as you can see we can archive a pre-print (this is the submitted version, before peer review). However, we need to consider the restrictions where it says “6 months embargo”.


Embargo is like a timer – if the embargo is 6months, it means that the deposited version cannot be available to read or download as full text from a repository until 6months after the publication has appeared in the journal.

Got it?Great!

Now this is where it can get a little complicated… To comply with the REF, an article needs to be in a repository within 3 months of acceptance.

OA6 But… how can we comply with both REF AND the embargo when they want different times?

This is where Jim Jamieson comes in again. All deposits to the repository are reviewed by him. After checking that the correct version is uploaded, he sets the embargo and the article will not be available to read or download until the embargo is over. This way it can comply with both requirements. HEFCE’s open access policy has maximum allowed embargo periods of 12 months for STEM subjects and 24 months for Humanities and Social Sciences. This is mainly the reason why the Green Open Access route is less known; many do not know they are allowed to make an accepted version available. However, it is the author’s responsibility to make sure the deposit is made within the time frame.

Working papers

This is a way to share research freely without worrying about embargo, fees or journals restrictions.

Working paper repositories are a great way of sharing research within a specific field and get feedback from others before submitting to a journal. Working papers are not peer reviewed, though often read and discussed within a community. They are deposited into a repository depending on subject area (e.g. IDEAS/RePEc for Economics or arXiv for Physics/ComputerScience/ Mathematics and more). OA7

One of our academics, John Mills, recently founded a repository for Sport Science papers, SportRxiv. The main reason for creating this repository was that, before going into higher education, John was working as a football coach and wanted to include new, scientific methods into his training. However, he wasn’t able to because he could not access journals without paying a lot of money. He believes research and science should be available for all, and created the repository to help make this happen. This is what the Open Access movement has been about; making research available to everyone and not just for those who can afford it.

If you are still confused about Open Access, you can email Jim Jamieson with any questions. You are also welcome to come and talk to library staff in Square 3 Wednesday 25th October from 11am to 3pm. In addition, we are hosting a Q&A drop-in session in the library on Wednesday 1st November (Special Collections Room, Floor 1). Read more about these events here.

What can you do to celebrate Open Access week?

by Kat Sundsbo, Scholarly Communications and Research Support Manager

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