How to make your research open access

Open access can be achieved through two main routes:

Route 1: Deposit or ‘self-archive’ in a digital repository ("Green")

Subject to copyright, authors can deposit copies of their articles in repositories alongside their publication in normal journals. The available evidence from Sherpa Romeo shows that this does not affect journal subscriptions, and 80% of publishers formally allow some form of self-archiving.

The system works by a version of the work being deposited into a repository such as St Andrews Research Repository. The repository is set up so content can be found easily by search engines and service providers, and readers can view the full-text direct from the institutional repository without needing a subscription to the relevant journal. Details and links to the definitive published version are also provided to ensure correct citation.

To follow the green route add the full text of your research outputs in Pure. It is easy and quick to do, and the library can help with checking copyright and other queries.

It is important to deposit the version that complies with publisher copyright policies as well as any funders' requirements. This is usually the accepted author final version following peer review but before the publisher’s copyediting and formatting. The Sherpa Romeo database is a useful resource for checking details of standard publisher policies.

The type of content and correct version to deposit in a repository may also depend on your subject discipline. Examples of different practices include:

  • Physics and Economics – commonly circulate unrefereed articles or working papers in advance of publication
  • Computer Science - an accepted method of communication is through conference papers
  • Arts and Humanities – research outputs are often book chapters
  • Biomedicine - generally only circulate refereed versions of papers.

By accepting different types of content, repositories reflect and support the existing research culture of your discipline.

The Versions Toolkit provides useful explanations of the various versions of journal articles produced during the research process. Some commonly used terms are:

  • ‘Submitted’ – also known as pre-print – the version submitted to a journal for peer review
  • ‘Accepted’ – also known as post-print – the author-created version that incorporates referees comments and has been accepted for publication
  • ‘Published’ – usually the publisher’s PDF – this version has been typeset and formatted for publication.

It is recommended that you create and keep your own author-created submitted and accepted versions of research publications.

Route 2: Publish in an open access journal ("Gold")

An alternative way of providing open access is to publish in an open access Journal, often known as the ‘Gold’ route.

Open access journals make all their articles available for free to all readers and use a variety of business models to achieve this. One model is to charge for publication services before publication, rather than charging for subscriptions. Article Processing Charges (APCs) can often be included within the costs of research funding, so the money for access comes through the research funder, rather than through the library budget. The initial source of the money is often the same (from government funding), but the economics of this model means that the overall cost is potentially lower.

There are a growing number of fully open access journals, with a list of the ones currently meeting strict criteria provided by the Directory of open access Journals. The Public Library of Science (PLoS) who make all their content freely available, state: “As a researcher, publishing in an open access journal allows anyone with an interest in your work to read it - and that translates into increased usage and impact”. The Library has a number of OA memberships to reduce overall costs.

Most publishers now operate ‘hybrid journals’, where the subscription version is still sold, but authors can choose to pay a fee for individual articles to be made freely available. The typical cost is around £1,800.

In some cases, the paid route may be the only option to comply with your funder’s requirements.