Open Access and improving the visibility of research outputs


Why Open Access (OA)? Open Access means providing free, permanent, online access to the full text of research articles and other associated materials such as images, data and training resources. Open access to research maximises research access and thereby also research impact, making research more productive and effective. In recent years the amount of materials available OA has grown hugely across the world.  OA means that others can access and use your materials without the barrier of payment. It also means that researchers and research managers can take publication decisions that will ensure that their research outputs are as widely available as possible.


Make the research and other outputs of your organization or network OA. There are two main ways that you can do this

1. Open Access Repositories – the “Green Road”

An institutional or thematic repository can hold published articles, conference articles, book materials, educational/training materials, data, theses, images, metadata, and so on, and make them openly available. (See CIARD Group 2 pathways for guidance on development of open repositories). Subject to any rights issues (see “IPR and Embargo Rules” below) authors can deposit copies of their finished articles in a repository at the same time as their publication in a journal. This is the “Green Road” to Open Access. The number of open access repositories around the world is increasing rapidly. The OpenDOAR service allows you to search worldwide for repositories or for repository content.

2. Open Access Journals – the “Gold Road”

Another way of providing Open Access to research outputs is to publish in an OA journal. This is the “Gold Road” to Open Access. These journals make their articles available at no cost to the reader. Sometimes this is done by charging the author for publication services before publication. Where publication charges are levied by the publisher in this way they can often be included within the costs of research funding, so the money which enables open access comes from the research funder. Some OA journals are financed and resourced in different ways, allowing open access publishing with no fees required. The number of OA journals is growing rapidly. A list of the ones currently available is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals. Many major publishers have developed hybrid models where an article may be made open access, within an otherwise subscription-based journal, by payment of a fee. 

The number of OA journals and aggregations has grown so much in recent years that it is not possible to highlight particular ones for recommendation. In choosing an OA journal for research articles an author should be guided by the same factors that have always been important to authors – the reputation and quality of the journal, speed and reliability of publication, and access to the correct readership.

It should be noted that there is controversy concerning some new publishers who have been created in recent years as “Gold” OA publishers requiring an author fee before publication. Some of these publishers have been shown to be unreliable in quality and in other ways they operate. See the ‘Scholarly Open Access’ site which contains Beall’s List of Predatory OA Publishers who should be avoided. The Directory of Open Access Journals is also a source for identifying reputable OA publishers and journals.

There are two other aspects of OA policies which will be important for how you make research outputs OA

1. Funding Agency Grant Rules

Many funding agencies now insist that the results of research funded by them must be made openly available in repositories, or through other forms of Open Access. Some have rules in place which make deposit in an OA repository a requirement of a grant. Other funders make a strong recommendation for deposit, or may make additional funds available for publication in an OA journal or in a hybrid service. Many of these rules and recommendations can be found in the searchable JULIET service.

2. IPR and Embargo Rules

The author (or his or her institution) of a research article usually owns the copyright in that article unless he or she gives it away (see [CIARD Pathway 1.1.4. on managing intellectual property rights]). Most publishers are now quite flexible on the ownership of rights and you, as an author or institution, should assume that in having your article published you can still retain the copyright in it. In this way you keep the flexibility to make the article available in various ways in addition to through the journal it has been accepted by.

You may still find that the publisher imposes certain rules, or embargoes. Some agreements forbid the author from photocopying the article or using it in teaching. Some publishers will impose an embargo period during which the article may not be made available on the author’s web site or institutional repository – this may be 3, 6 or 12 months after publication. There may then be other conditions concerning where the article may be posted and in which version.

Other agreements are more liberal. It is possible for an author to license to the publisher some of the rights in his or her article, but to retain other rights, thus allowing more freedom in how the work may be made available.

The RoMEO service lists many publishers and their copyright agreements. It is a useful resource for identifying which publishers and/or journals have the most flexible and open policies


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