Green Open Access is the process of making a version of a research publication freely available to read online, often with less in the way of copyright and licensing restrictions than traditionally published material. Green open access usually happens via a repository, which is a type of online archive dedicated to the purpose.

Repositories can be run by institutions, such as universities.

An example of an institutional repository is ORO run by The OU.

Repositories can also be run by subject communities, for example by groups of philosophers, or scientists, or economists.

Items are made green open access in addition to being published “traditionally”. So, for example, a researcher could have an article published in a journal run by a commercial publisher and make a version of the same article green open access.

The version of the full text that publishers will allow to be made green Open Access can vary but is generally not the final published version.

Typically, it is the Author's Accepted Manuscript, which is the version after peer review but before copy editing and typesetting by the publisher.

Most commercial publishers enforce an embargo period, this is a minimum amount of time that has to elapse before the full text can made available via green open access. This can be 12 months, 24 months or some other period defined by the publisher. Publishers enforce embargo periods in order to try and balance the growing desire for open access with the viability of their business. They argue that if all research were freely available instantly via repositories then nobody would pay journal subscriptions, pay download charges or buy books.

Different publishers have different policies around green open access, so check with your publisher to see which version of your publication they will let you make available and what other conditions they apply.

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Gold Open Access

Gold OA includes papers in traditional (hybrid) journals where the authors choose Gold, and fully (pure) OA journals (e.g. BioMed Central, PLOS).

This podcast explains Gold OA publishing.

Gold open access is where the final published version of a research publication is made free to read immediately on the publisher's website, often with less in the way of copyright and licensing restrictions than traditionally published material.

Let’s take journal articles as an example.

Journal articles can be made available via journals that only publish gold open access. These are sometimes called pure gold open access journals. Alternatively, they can be made available in journals that have a mixture of gold open access content and content that readers have to pay for. These are known as hybrid journals. So how does gold open access work financially?

Often it is via Article Processing Charges (or APCs). These are fees paid by the author to ensure the article is free to the reader.

Some pure gold journals don’t charge APCs but some do. All hybrid journals charge APCs.

APCs can cost hundreds or, more often, thousands of pounds. Pure gold journals that don’t charge APCs may be funded by Membership fees, endowments, institutional subsidies or volunteerism; and the sustainability of these journals may be questionable.

Funders may expect you to publish articles Open Access, and you may be able to factor APC costs into your bid. Alternatively, APCs may be paid by block grants, such as the one established by UKRI (formerly RCUK) for research they fund.

A condition of using money from funders to pay APCs may be the application of a certain licence to the article, for example a Creative Commons CC-BY license

Less progress has been made making books Open Access. The Crossick Report states "It is very clear that extending open access to books is not easy. From licensing and copyright to business models and quality, the issues that must be tackled are thorny and numerous".

Nevertheless traditional publishers and new Open Access publishers are publishing monographs, typically charging between 4,000 and 12,000 pounds.

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