Finding and using information

Open access

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Open access (OA) refers to making research outputs freely available online with limited restrictions over reuse. Open access aims to break down many of the access barriers to academic research, particularly making outputs available to a wider range of researchers across the world, as well as students, policy-makers, practitioners, journalists, businesses, and members of the wider public. UWL supports open access to enhance the visible and impact of UWL research.

Also see Peter Suber’s overview of OA.


What is open access?

Open access publications are research outputs that are freely accessible on the internet. The traditional model for access to academic research is to only allow access for researchers and students whose university has purchased the physical or electronic copies of particular books and journals. Often, for journals this is through a subscription to a package of a publisher’s electronic journals. Instead, open access makes work freely available to all via the internet.

There are two main kinds of open access: ​green and ​​gold.

  Green  Gold
Payment involved​ No Yes (sometimes)
Can I deposit in a repository? Yes (usually) Yes
Version of publication Author's accepted manuscript Final published version
Availability After embargo period Immediately


It is important to remember that green and gold refer to the mechanism through which publications are made open access. Neither gold nor green open access are business models. There are misconceptions here, with Article Processing Charges (APCs) being increasingly common. However, it is worth noting that the vast majority of gold open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals do not charge APCs. Some gold open access publishers, such as the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) do not charge fees to the authors. OLH instead derive an income to support their operations through Library Partnership Subsidies. 

Green open access refers to making research outputs available via an institutional or subject repository, such as the UWL Repository. The version of the research output that is usually made open access via the ​green route is the ‘author’s accepted manuscript’ (i.e. the final refereed draft manuscript) rather than the final copy-edited and typeset published version. The only major difference is the appearance of the article; the substantive content will be the same as the final version as it has been peer-reviewed and approved for publication.

This route to open access involves no fee. An embargo period is sometimes imposed by a publisher (usually 6 or 12 months following the date of publication, but sometimes up to 24 months), during which time the full text cannot be made available to download in a repository. However, after this time period, the research output is freely available to access.

Gold open access commonly refers to published versions of outputs that are freely available for use and reuse without access restrictions such as paywalls or registration. As discussed above, gold open access publishing can involve the payment of a fee (e.g. an Article Processing Charge) to a publisher. Upon payment, the publisher then makes the article, chapter or book freely available upon publication. Publishers usually assign a Creative Commons license to the publication, allowing for the reproduction and certain other reuses of the output without the user needing to seek permission.

The fee paid to the publisher can vary hugely. The average fee for an article is around £1,800, whereas a whole book may cost between £6,000-12,000. UWL does not manage funds for gold open access, although there are a number of ways you might be able to cover these charges (see our open access FAQ). Making your work open access can be free if you use a repository, such as the UWL Repository.

Green open access is supported by HEFCE’s policy on open access for the next REF, and is supported by UWL through the UWL Repository


Open access publications

Most publishers support both the green and gold routes to open access.

Many journals will allow you to pay an APC to make your work open access immediately upon publication (gold), or afford you the right to deposit your work in a repository (green). These journals are known as ‘hybrid journals’ as they publish a mixture of content that can only be accessed by those who have bought access (e.g. via a university library subscription) and open access articles where an APC has been paid. Most major publishers of books also offer open access options (gold and green) for full-length books and book chapters.

There are a range of journals which only publish open access articles, more strictly termed ‘open access journals’. Major open access journals include the PLOS journals, a range of Nature Publishing Group journals (e.g. Nature Communications, Scientific Reports), BioMed Central and eLIFE journals.

A myth in the earlier days of open access, but one that often persists, is that open access equates with lower quality research. That is not necessarily true, as articles (of whatever quality) can be made open access even if they are not published in open access journals by making use of a repository.

The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a list of reputable open access journals. If you are unsure about the quality of a journal, whether open access or not, you can use Think.Check.Submit., a website which helps you to choose the right journal for your research.

If you would like to locate an open access version of an article that is published in a subscriber-only journal, which you do not have access to, you can search the author’s own university repository to see whether they have deposited their work there. The Open Access Button website can also be used to locate open access articles. This resource allows you do enter the DOI (digital object identifier, often found on articles’ webpage on the publisher’s website) or weblink for an article and it will crawl the web to find the article in an open access repository.


How to publish gold open access

If you have made provision for open access publishing within a research grant, you may be able to cover the Article Processing Charge for gold open access from those funds.

Another option is to consider asking a co-author if their institution may cover the APC.

Waivers and Discounts. Your chosen journal may offer a waiver for individuals from certain institutions – it is worth asking your journal editor for further information.

  • SAGE: UWL authors are able to obtain a heavily discounted rate (£200) for Gold open access in a range of SAGE journals. For the full details, and for the discount code for this offer please contact
  • BMJ: If you have supplied a review for a BMJ journal you are entitled to a 25% discount off the APC charge. A waiver scheme is also available
  • PLOS: A Publication Fee Assistance programme is available. When submitting a paper to a PLOS journal, you will be provided with the option to apply for fee assistance if no other funding sources are available.
  • Frontiers: Waivers for the APC can be applied for prior to submitting an article if no other funding sources are available
  • Springer: If publishing in a SpringerOpen journal, a waiver or discount may be available depending on availability of funding. Waivers are applied for via the submission system, and prior to submitting a manuscript
  • The Open Library of Humanities offers a number of reputable open access journals, which are free to publish in

If any of these routes are not available by using the UWL Repository you can make most articles, conference papers and book chapters available open access after any applicable embargo period. Please see our information on publishers’ copyright policies for further information.


Benefits of open access


Compliance with HEFCE, UWL and funders’ policies

Making your work open access through a repository can help you meet the requirements of several overlapping policies, including HEFCE’s open access policy for the next REF, UWL’s Publications Policy as well as the policies of funders if you are conducting research funded by charities or research councils.


Permanence of the Repository

Using a repository like the UWL Repository affords academic work a permanent, legal and stable location. Papers posted elsewhere on the web are liable to disappear within a couple of years – this includes papers posted to social networking sites like ResearchGate and (these are not repositories). A user may delete their publications, or they may be taken down by the website owners.


Wider access

Making your work open access enables wider access to scholarly research: for researchers, students, those in developing countries, policy makers, practitioners, businesses and the wider public.

  • Researchers: Even the best-funded universities have gaps in their subscriptions. For those in developing countries with minimal research budgets, open access work is even more essential. For many early career researchers or academics between jobs, open access work is the only work they may be able to access. Making your work open access allows more researchers across the UK and internationally to read your work.
  • Students: Again, not every university has broad subscription coverage via their libraries. Open access work can be essential for students to improve their dissertations and theses as well as their coursework. If they are working at home they will often settle for information that is easily available on the internet over that which is most relevant.
  • Lecturers and teachers: Making your work open access means it can be easily recommended and linked-to on electronic reading lists.
  • NGOs, practitioners, policy-makers, journalists: These groups often use the work they can find freely and quickly. Repositories are well indexed by Google, so work hosted on them are more prominent on search listings than work not in a repository.
  • Businesses: Price barriers prevent businesses, especially small businesses, from accessing scholarly research. In some fields like biotechnology and alternative energies small businesses can benefit from access to research: the use of open access articles has been shown to help speed-up innovation and economic growth in some sectors.
  • The public: Open access encourages accountability for public funding, and can help to demonstrate a good return on public investment in higher education research.


Academic advantage

  • Collaboration: Sharing and using open access work enables the potential to find new collaborators, locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Academic process: It also improves the academic process, making it less susceptible to duplication (since it is easier to find out what others have already researched), and offers more chances to improve and build upon existing work.
  • Citations: Open access work often receives greater scholarly attention. Although findings vary between studies, many have shown a citation advantage for open access articles. When you make your work available in an open access repository, it is provided with quality metadata and a sharable web address. You can share work confident that whoever clicks the link can access the work. Moreover, as repositories are well indexed, it increases the chance of your work being found serendipitously, which may lead to citations further down the line.
  • Book chapters and unpublished work: Open access repositories may be particularly useful for academic outputs like book chapters in edited volumes which are often not given unique webpages by the publisher. You can better promote these kinds of outputs, as well as unpublished work such as reports and conference presentations which also may not be given permanent storage elsewhere on the internet.


Further information and resources

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