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What is Open Access?

Open Access to UCL's research outputs is a key objective of the UCL Publications Policy. Open Access (OA) simply means making scholarly literature freely available on the internet without financial, legal or technical barriers. By increasing the dissemination and visibility of research, the impact and citations are also increased. Studies have shown a 25% - 250% increase in citations through Open Access availability1.

In the traditional publishing system, authors regularly have to pay various charges and fees to their publisher, while their institution pays to access that research and more through journal subscription costs2. That said, most UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) can not afford to subscribe to all the journal titles that might be required by their staff and students3. Other research organisations, including the NHS and teaching based HEIs, often have a lack of access to online research due to subscription costs4.

The Open Access movement ‘officially’ started in 2002 with the Budapest Open Access Initiative. In 2004, a report by the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recommended that HEIs establish institutional repositories to help reduce the financial barriers of increasing journal subscription charges5. Following this report, nearly all UK research councils require fundees to deposit all published articles in an open access repository. Open access repositories do not replace the traditional publishing system, nor do they remove the peer-review process; instead they complement published literature by giving access to content where (and when) copyright or author’s rights permit. More than 60% of publishers permit authors to place their final accepted version in repositories like UCL Discovery6.

Making research from subscription based journals available in repositories such as UCL Discovery is commonly known as Green OA, but there are alternatives: Gold OA and Hybrid OA.

Gold OA consists of journals that operate wholly as Open Access journals. They provide free immediate access to all content, post peer-review, in return for one of more methods of payment, such as author pays, advertising, membership fees, and institutional subsidies. There are no costs to the user and no ‘subscription’ costs payable by the institution. Although the papers are accessible by all, distribution may be limited to the journal site, i.e. copyright may not permit the use of the paper in UCL Discovery.

Hybrid OA consists of a growing number of subscription based journals that have incorporated OA options following the success of Gold OA journals7. These Hybrid OA journals publish under two economic models – the traditional subscribe-to-read model, plus Gold OA where the author can pay for an accepted paper to be made accessible by all without subscription. Only the journal content that has been made open access following payment is accessible to all; some articles may be restricted to subscription access only. Many publishers offer Hybrid OA – although nearly each publisher uses a different name; Open Choice, Sponsored Article, and OnlineOpen are just a few.

Hybrid OA has proven very popular and is relatively risk free for publishers as they still receive subscription revenue. Critics have argued that the cost of subscription charges and the author pay fees have risen and can be prohibitive, particularly if the publishing costs are not met by funding bodies. In addition, as with Gold OA, distribution may be limited to the journal site, i.e. copyright may not permit use of the paper in UCL Discovery.

For more information on funding body requirements, please see research funder policies and the SHERPA Juliet database.

A range of OA information can be found at the RIN Open Access resources (Research Information Network).

  1. Wagner, A. B. (2010) Open Access Citation Advantage: An Annotated Bibliography, Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, 60, 2, Accesses at http://www.istl.org/10-winter/article2.html 25/10/2010
  2. Doyle, H., Gass, A., and Kennison, R. (2004) Who Pays for Open Access? PLoS Biology 2(4): e105. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020105
  3. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (2004) Scientific Publications: Free for All? Tenth Report of Session 2003-04, Volume I, London, UK: The Stationery Office Ltd. Accessed at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmsctech/399/399.pdf
  4. Draper, J. (2004) (Mis)Leading Open Access Myths, Open Access Now, March 2004, Accessed at http://www.biomedcentral.com/openaccess/inquiry/myths/
  5. Ibid.
  6. Morris, S. (2009) Journal author’ rights: perception and reality, PRC Summary Paper 5, http://www.publishingresearch.net/author_rights.htm
  7. Weber, D. (2009) Hybrid OA Journals: A Progression or a Destination? Open and Libraries Class Journal, 1(2), 32, Accessed at http://infosherpas.com/ojs/index.php/openandlibraries/article/view/32