Open Access refers to the free and unrestricted access to literature. In other words, making your research available open access means your research is available online with no cost to the reader. 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 below video gives a basic introduction to Open Access, and highlights some of the reasons why it is important.
There are many reasons why Open Access is important, including:
More exposure for your work
Practitioners can apply your findings
Higher citation rates
Your research can influence policy
The public can access your findings
Compliant with grant rules
Taxpayers get value for money
Researchers in developing countries can see your work
Based on the image by Danny Kingsley and Sarah Brown.
There are several ways to make something open access:
This is also known as self-archiving, and involves the author archiving a pre-print or Author's Accepted Manuscript (AAM) in an institutional repository or subject specific archive. There are no costs involved with this, but there may be an embargo set by the journal. To keep the monopoly on a published article, journals often add an embargo, which means that the AAM cannot be shared online until the embargo is over. The length of an embargo varies and depends on the journal's policy, but the most common length is between 3 to 12 months.
Gold Open Access is to publish with an Open Access journal. The article is freely available online for the reader at the time of publication. Many Open Access journals have an Article Processing Charge (APC), which is set to cover the cost of publishing as this is not covered by subscription fees. The APC varies depending on the subject area and quality of the journal, and the average APC is around £2,000. In open access publishing, the author keeps the copyright.
'Read and publish' deals with publishers, where APCs and subscription costs are combined into one fee, are beginning to be negotiated in many countries. More information about opportunities to publish via this route at the University of Essex is available here.
A hybrid journal is a subscription-based journal that allows open access publishing. This means that an author can pay an APC to make their article open access. Hybrid journals have received a lot of criticism as they charge both APCs and subscription fees, known as 'double dipping', and rarely adjust their subscription fees according to the extra income from the APCs.
This is almost identical to Gold Open Access, apart from the APC. In Diamond Open Access publishing there is no fee for publishing, and these journals are often funded by organisations, institutions, or other initiatives.