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Open Access Publishing

Open Access explained

If a journal article is made openly accessible it means that anyone, anywhere can have free, unrestricted, online access to it in perpetuity. In addition, the content is searchable through online search engines. Open Access publishing is not vanity or self-publishing. It relies on peer-review and traditional editorial processes, and there is no suggestion that repositories should replace journals.

Increasingly, research funders are requiring that the results of publicly funded research must be made openly accessible. The Research Councils UK (RCUK) policy is that peer-reviewed research and review articles which acknowledge Research Council support and are accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2013 should be made openly accessible. The Wellcome Trust has a similar policy and has also extended the Open Access requirement to cover monographs and book chapters resulting from grants awarded after 1 October 2013. For the next research assessment HEFCE has stated that all journal articles accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2016 will have to be made openly accessible to be eligible for submission.

Changes to funder policies make Open Access publishing compulsory

The policy of Research Councils UK (RCUK) is that outputs accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2013 have to be made openly accessible on the web. This applies to research that is fully or partially funded by RCUK.  It covers peer-reviewed articles, conference papers and review articles but does not currently extend to monographs or book chapters, though this may change in the future.  It also includes RCUK funded research by doctoral students even if they have already left the University.

The Wellcome Trust has a similar policy and it has been extended to cover monographs and book chapters resulting from grants awarded after 1 October 2013

HEFCE have announced that for the next research assessment exercise all journal articles and conference proceedings accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2016 will have to be openly accessible in a subject or institutional repository to be eligible for submission.

Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust are not alone in demanding Open Access to research outputs. Funding body requirements can be viewed, for instance, via the SHERPA JULIET service.

RCUK Open Access policy document 

Wellcome Trust Open Access position statement 

HEFCE policy for Open Access

Open Access publishing - gold or green

Open Access (OA) publishing follows two routes - Gold and Green. Under the Gold route, a research paper is made freely available online by the publisher of a journal. In many cases the author has to pay the publisher an Article Processing Charge (APC) for this. Using the Green route, a research paper is archived in an OA subject or institutional repository like Bradford Scholars. There is no charge for Green OA publishing.

Some research councils specify which repository to use for archiving. Publishers will also, in some cases, impose embargo periods during which full access to self-archived articles is not permitted. Restrictions may also be in place as to which version (pre-print or post-print) may be archived in an OA repository. In order to comply with the RCUK and HEFCE policies, the acceptable version for self-archiving is the peer-reviewed and final author version of the research article. NB! this may differ in formatting from the publisher's final published PDF which in many cases may not be self-archived. RCUK and HEFCE have also placed restrictions on the length of permitted embargo periods and the type of OA license applied by the publisher. In all cases, the chosen repository must comply with certain metadata and digital preservation requirements. The University of Bradford OA repository - Bradford Scholars - is fully compliant with the RCUK and HEFCE policies.

It is worth noting that authors may often, depending on publisher policies, do both: publish via the Gold route AND self-archive simultaneously using the Green route. This approach has the potential to further increase the reach and readership of research. 

Choosing a publisher and journal

The funding bodies' policies on OA are not aimed at restricting the range of journals where researchers may choose to publish their work. However, OA availability may become a major factor in the future when deciding where to submit papers for publication.

Purely Open Access journals already exist and the articles in these journals are freely available as soon as they are published. In many cases publishing in OA journals is free; with others authors will be asked to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC). This is levied when a paper is accepted for publication and no further action is required from the author. All OA journals are categorised as Gold OA journals and their license agreements meet with the RCUK requirements.

A number of journals are hybrid titles where some content is available as OA articles while the rest is only available to subscribers. When publishing with a hybrid journal, an author may choose to pay an APC to make the content openly accessible. This can sometimes be done retrospectively. The exact mechanism for doing this varies from publisher to publisher; and even between journals from the same publisher. NB! if a journal does not offer a suitable OA license agreement (Creative Commons CC-BY or equivalent) there is no point paying an APC making the article open accessible as the paper will not meet the RCUK requirements for OA.

The SHERPA/FACT website assists in finding out whether a journal meets the requirements of a particular funding body for an OA journal. The Library can also assist in determining whether a journal is compliant with the HEFCE and funding body policies. Fill in the Open Access Mandate Form to check your journal's compliance.

Funding for Gold Open Access publishing

Money is already allocated for Open Access publishing in some older Research Council grants. In these cases money provided in the grant should be used.

More recent grants do not include funding for OA publishing. To cover these situations RCUK have awarded a block grant to each university to spend on OA publishing. When submitting a paper for OA you may apply to the Bradford block grant to cover the related Article Processing Charge. Most publishers of hybrid journals give authors the option to provide OA to an article at the point when a paper is accepted for publication. Authors complete the request to make papers openly accessible on the publisher website. Publishers usually email invoices to authors. At this point an author will need to fill in the block grant application form to cover the APC. Both the invoice and the application form are sent to RKTS and, provided there are funds still available in the block grant, the invoice will be paid and the research paper made openly accessible in the publishing journal. Checking with the RKTS prior to arranging Open Access for an article with the publisher is recommended to ensure block grant funds are still available. 

The University also has arrangements in place with selected publishers to allow for discounted or waived APCs. Authors need to contact the library to enquire about the availability of any applicable discounts. Currently arrangements are in place with the following journal publishers:

  • American Chemical Society
  • IMechE
  • SAGE
  • Springer
  • Taylor and Francis

NB! funds from the block grant are only available if the research was RCUK funded and this is acknowledged in the research publication; if funds are not already allocated in the research grant; and if the paper was submitted for publication after 1 April 2014.

Benefits

Benefits to researchers and their institutions

Studies on Open Access publishing have shown that OA articles are downloaded more times than those available only on subscription from the same journal and year.  This brings benefits for the authors in terms of wider audience and greater reach for their work, and potentially increases the impact of their research.  It gives authors higher visibility within their field and with the general public and raises the profile of their institutions.  In a time of restricted funding it will also display what researchers and their institutions have done with public money provided by the Research Councils to support their work.

Benefits to the research community in general

OA publishing will also benefit the research community as a whole, allowing every researcher to access a full range of publications in their field without subscription, increasing the free exchange of information which is part of the life-blood of research endeavour.  The ability to access research outputs without subscription will also ease pressure on libraries feeling the results of limited resources and faced with an ever-increasing flood of new research outputs.