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      . . . opening access to research  

      Authors and Open Access

      What is Open Access?  |  Funders' Grant Rules Journals' Copyright Rules Which Repository?Assistance

      What is Open Access?

      Open Access is . . .
      If an article is "Open Access" it means that it can be freely accessed by anyone in the world using an internet connection. This means that the potential readership of Open Access articles is far, far greater than that for articles where the full-text is restricted to subscribers. Evidence shows that making research material Open Access increases the number of readers and significantly increases citations to the article - in some fields increasing citations by 300%.

      What Open Access is not
      It is important to point out that Open Access does not affect peer-review; articles are peer-reviewed and published in journals in the normal way. There is no suggestion that authors should use repositories instead of journals. Open Access repositories supplement and do not replace journals. Some authors have feared that wider availability will increase plagiarism: in fact, if anything, Open Access serves to reduce plagiarism. When material is freely available the chance that plagiarism is recognised and exposed is that much higher.

      What is the problem?
      Journal price rises over the last decade mean that most universities can no longer afford subscriptions to all of the journals that their academics need. Even if a journal is available on-line, this does not mean it is freely available: university libraries pay large subscriptions to allow their academics to easily access journal materials on-line. Price rises that are many times the rate of inflation continue to be imposed each year, further restricting access to journal articles. The situation is even worse in the developing world, where journal subscription prices mean that many institutions simply cannot afford access to up-to-date research.

      Open Access Solutions
      Open Access addresses these problems by taking the results of research that has already been paid for and making it freely available on-line, through repositories and websites. This process can have significant advantages for individual authors, for researchers, for institutions and for the process of research generally by freeing up the process of dissemination. Many funders have recognised that the job of research is only half-done if the results of that research cannot reach the widest audience. Some are formulating policies to require Open Access to their funded research.

      Public Access
      Another aspect is that on a national level, most research is publicly funded and yet the general public cannot get access to the results that have been paid for by their taxes. For example, the majority of research paid for and carried out by the National Health Service is not freely available - even to NHS staff. Restricting access to research has many disadvantages. For instance, it means that there is often no readily accessible material available to science journalists or the public to counter the regular scare-stories or reputed miracle cures widely reported in the mass media.

      Open Access Repositories
      Open Access repositories can hold digital duplicates of published articles and make them freely available. Subject to copyright (see below) authors can deposit copies of their finished articles in repositories alongside their publication in normal journals. The available evidence shows that this does not affect journal subscriptions. If the subject-discipline circulates unrefereed pre-prints or working papers in advance of publication (like Physics, or Economics), then these can be deposited. If an accepted method of communication is through conference papers (like Computer Science), then these can be deposited: similarly for fields that use book chapters or reports. Other fields like Biomedicine only circulate refereed post-prints. Repositories tag peer-reviewed material to make this status clear. The important point is that repositories reflect and support the existing research culture of the discipline.

      The system works by these electronic versions of article, or eprints, being deposited into a database, or repository. These repositories are mainly administered by research institutions, which confers the advantage of allowing local support of users. Such institutional repositories share records about their content with service providers, who then offer search services to users across every record that they hold. This means that a researcher using a search service is searching across all repositories, not just individual ones. Once the researcher finds a record, then they can view the full-text direct from the instutional repository. As well as services which just search repositories, the full-text is also searched by Google, Yahoo and others.

      There are increasing numbers of open access repositories available around the world. The OpenDOAR service allows you to search for repositories or for repository content. A list of repositories based in the UK is available.

      Open Access Journals
      An alternate way of providing Open Access is to publish in an Open Access Journal. These journals make their articles available for free through charging for the publication services before publication, rather than after publication through subscriptions. Open Access publication charges can be often included within the costs of research funding, so the money for access comes through the research funder, rather than through the library budget. Of course, the initial source of the money is often the same (from government funding), but the economics of this model means that the overall cost is lower. There are a growing number of Open Access Journals, with a journal available in most disciplines. A list of the ones currently available is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals.

      Some publishers are now experimenting with hybrid journals, where the subscription version is still sold, but for a supplement - typically around $3000 each - an articles can then be made freely available. It has been noted that far from reducing costs, this increases the overall cost of publication. However, while the Open Access model catches on, this is one way that articles can be made freely available.

      Depositing in Repositories
      There is no charge for using institutional repositories. The process of deposition typically takes about 10 minutes and consists of filling in a web-based form with details about the article; then attaching a pdf copy (or similar), and then submitting it to the repository administrator. Repositories have help-systems and guidance: some institutions may offer personal assistance for the first few times you deposit. The process is quick and simple and will mean that the article is then available world-wide to a vastly increased readership.

      Be sure when writing an article to keep a copy of the final version, after all the changes due to peer-review have been integrated in the text. Publishers sometimes refuse permission for authors to use the version which have been typeset, but allow authors to use their own final version, even though the content of the article is exactly the same. If you no longer have your own copy, then sometimes your editor might be able to supply you with a copy of what you sent them. However, it is always easier to keep your own copy of your final version.

      Funders' Grant Rules

      A number of research funders now have rules in place which make deposit in an open access repository a requirement of any grant. Other funders make a strong recommendation for deposit, or may make additional funds available for publication in an open access journal, or in one of the hybrid journals set up by some publishers.

      SHERPA runs a service called JULIET, as a complement to the RoMEO service, which lists these rules and recommendations. Use the list to check to see if a particular funder has an open access requirement for research outputs.

      A briefing paper created and distributed to University of Nottingham academics on the practical requirements of the major research funders on scholarly output, is available here.

      Journals' Copyright Rules

      There may be copyright restrictions in making an eprint freely available. Although the majority of publisher and journals allow authors to archive their work under certain conditions, other publishers are more restrictive.

      Typically, when an article is published, the author assigns copyright, or gives a copyright license to the publisher. Depending on the particular agreement that is signed, the author retains more or less rights to use the article. Some agreements forbid the author from photocopying the article, using it in teaching, or mounting it on-line. Other agreements are more liberal and allow the author to retain rights to use the article as they wish.

      SHERPA runs the RoMEO service, which lists publishers and their associated copyright agreements. Use the RoMEO service to search for a publisher, or a particular journal, to see what rights are assigned to publishers and which are retained by the author.

      Which Repository

      Funders may have requirements for research to be deposited in a particular repository: some subject-based repositories have been set-up for this purpose. SHERPA runs a service called JULIET which lists funders' rules and if they have a requirement for authors to use a particular repository.

      Otherwise, the great majority of research-led universities in the UK already have an institutional repository for use by their staff. A list of UK institutional repositories and contacts is available from this site. If you belong to one of these institutions, then such a repository is probably the best place to hold your eprint. Remember, other researchers will find the eprint irrespective of which repository holds it - the place you store the eprint is not necessarily the way that people will use to find the eprint.

      If your institution does not yet have a repository, then if you work for an academic institution in the UK, there is now a service called "the Depot" where you can deposit research articles on an open access basis. In time, as more institutions establish their own repositories, material will be transferred from the Depot to the appropriate institutional repository. This will be done automatically and access will be maintained at all times.

      As part of the SHERPA project, the British Library has set up a pilot repository for use by unaffiliated scholars from the UK who use the Library's facilities and who are not directly associated with a particular institution.

      There are some moves underway to provide general repositories for use by academics without access to archive facilities in the UK, the USA and elsewhere. Until these initiatives come to fruition, for authors outside the UK without an institutional repository, there are a small number of subject-based repositories elsewhere in the world which might be able to hold your material. SHERPA runs a service called OpenDOAR which lists repositories world-wide. Use OpenDOAR to see if your subject-discipline has a general repository you can use.


      Repository systems are designed to allow academics to archive their own work. It is generally a simple process and should take no more than 10 minutes. Like other IT systems, when coming to it for the first time the process might take slightly longer; but the input form is straight forward.

      If you belong to a SHERPA partner institution, then there is someone in your organisation who is able to advise or assist you in depositing your eprint. A list of SHERPA Officers is available, listed by institution. Other institutions also have archives and provide assistance: a list of these repositories and contacts is available. We will maintain this and update the list as new repositories and contacts develop.


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