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Open Access

This guide covers what Open Access is, the philosophy behind Open Access, Creative Commons Licences

What is Open Access (OA) in Publishing?

Open Access (OA) refers to research outputs that are freely available on the internet for all to read. Open Access widens access to peer-reviewed scholarly information beyond the people who have access to subscription titles to the general public, increasing the impact of research beyond the university.

The level of "openness" is generally more obvious if the author has applied a Creative Commons license to their online material.

Tied up with open access is the fact that many publishers ask researchers to transfer copyright of their research outputs to the researcher, thereby restricting how researchers can re-use their outputs.


Journal publishers may offer several models of Open Access to published articles or books:



The following are some of the various models currently being used by which researchers can reuse their outputs:

  • "GOLD OPEN ACCESS" ... generally the author, institution or funder pays a fee to publishers ("author acceptance fee") to make their paper/output freely available to read, on the publishers website. Some journals titles are all Gold, while other are hybrid i.e. contains both open publications and those that can be accessed by subscription only.
  • "GREEN OPEN ACCESS" ... generally the publisher retains copyright, but permits the author to upload a specified version of the published paper in a repository as a free to read paper. The version on the publisher's website remains available only to subscribers.
  • "BRONZE OPEN ACCESS" ... articles made free-to-read on the publisher’s website, without an explicit open license. This includes delayed OA and promotional material that the publishers have chosen to make free but not open. Piwowar (2017) estimates that this is the most common type of Open Access most people encounter.
  • ("BLACK OPEN ACCESS" ... pirate websites ... not legal)

How "Open" is an "open access" item?

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