What is Open Access?

What is Open Access? 

Contemporary open access (OA) dates back to the 1990s although the idea of open access to scholarly journal articles can trace its origins back a further 50 years or so. 

The contemporary open access movement strives to make research publications (but especially peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers) available globally, for free, to anyone, at their point of access. This is made possible by the increasing ubiquity of computer and telecommunications technologies. The unacceptable inflationary costs of traditional print models of scholarly journal publishing have given tremendous impetus to alternative contemporary open access publishing modes in recent years. 

An open access journal article or conference paper can: 

  • be viewed for free by anyone, including academics, other scholars, the general public etc. 

  • normally be re-used in more ways than a traditionally published article. 

Other research outputs (such as research data) can also be made available using an open access model. 

Watch a YouTube video on 'Open Access Explained!' 


What are the benefits of Open Access? 

Researchers who publish using an open access model benefit in many ways: 

  • it leads to much faster and wider dissemination and sharing of research findings. 

  • open access maximises research impact – numerous studies are confirming that an OA article is much more likely to be accessed and cited than an article which sits behind paid-for, traditional subscription models. 

  • institutional repositories (such as AURA here at Aberdeen) enhance the visibility of research undertaken by individuals, departments, research groups etc. here at the University. This can be important in attracting research students, research funding etc. 

  • since no library can possibly collect or provide access to all of the peer-reviewed scholarly literature, publishing research outputs via an OA model vastly increases all researchers’ access to the scholarly literature of their disciplines. 

Watch a YouTube video on the 'Benefits of Open Access'.

Open Access at University of Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen Open Access Fund 

From 1st April 2013 the University receives a block grant to help fund APCs (Article Processing Charges) for the open access publishing of RCUK funded research; the University also receives money from the Wellcome Trust to pay APCs for publishing refereed journal articles arising from Wellcome Trust funded research grants. 

Together these block grants constitute the University of Aberdeen Open Access Fund. 

The University encourages use of the Green route for OA publishing. However, if your research is funded by either of these grant awarding bodies and needs to be published using the Gold route for open access (i.e. immediate open access availability on publication) you may obtain funding for your APCs by completing the Article Processing Charges form below. 

Please read the accompanying guide Paying Article Processing Charges before completing and submitting the form. 

The University benefits from a number of other deals which can be used be used where Gold open access is needed. These schemes are listed below - please note that there is no requirement for your research output to be funded by external funders to take advantage of these deals. 


SAGE Choice and Sage Premier Schemes 

Our Scottish Higher Education Digital Library SAGE agreement allows authors based at this University to a discounted Article Processing Charge of £200 for publication of articles on the publisher’s Open Access model. 

This flat rate applies to all titles in the Sage Choice Scheme and titles in the Sage Premier 2013package. However, please note: 

  • authors must indicate that they are entitled to the discount by using a code when initially applying for the SAGE Choice option 

  • the code is available here. It must be entered in the “University/Institution Account Code” field of the SAGE Choice Invoice Template 

  • if the code is not used at this stage in submission then the discounted rate cannot be applied retrospectively by SAGE 

  • the SAGE Choice Invoice Template should be returned to the relevant e-mail address at SAGE as instructed on the form 



The library has a pre-pay account with Wiley. Authors can now select University of Aberdeen when submitting to a Wiley Open Access journal or opting for Online Open to qualify for a discounted APC charge. Please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk for further information. 


Taylor & Francis 

If you choose to publish open access in a Taylor & Francis Open Select journal you will be asked to contact the library who will place your order at a discounted rate. For further information please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk



University of Aberdeen Researchers who have an article accepted for publication in a participating Springer hybrid journal will be able to publish their article open access at no extra cost under the Springer Compact Agreement. The agreement between Jisc and Springer will initially run as a pilot from 15th October 2015 until Dec 2018. Please note that it does not apply to fully open access titles. Please select University of Aberdeen as your affiliated institution when submitting your article for publication. For further information please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk 



There is currently a trial scheme available with IoP. It does not provide a point of purchase discount on the Article Processing Charge (APC) itself – instead it gives the library a refund of 90% of the pre-VAT APC to use as a discount against the following year’s IoP journal subscription costs. If an IoP APC is paid it results in a discount being applied to next year’s library subscription costs. For further information please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk 


Bentham Open 

Submissions to Bentham Open Publications from authors affiliated with the University of Aberdeen are now eligible for a 50% discount on open access charges. Please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk for further information. 



Article processing charges paid through our IEEE deposit account will receive a 25% discount, please contact openaccess@abdn.ac.uk for further information.

Make your research Open Access
Automatic Open Access Green Open Access Gold Open Access

Automatic Open Access 

Some publishers will automatically place your article on open access from the publisher’s own website after a set period (the embargo period) following the publication of your article. They may also deposit it in a subject based repository such as Europe PubMed Central (formerly UK PubMed Central). There are no charges for this. An embargo period may be 6 or 12 months or some other period of time. 

If you rely on this OA route and your research has been funded by a funding body which has a strict OA policy on how and when your research output must be made available, then you should ensure that the publisher’s policy complies with your research funder’s mandate. This is dealt with further under Gold OA below. 


Gold and Green Open Access 

Automatic OA, however, is still limited. But you can make your own research open access now. There are two ways to do so, and they are known as Green and Gold OA. The University's preferred route is to make research outputs Green OA wherever possible. 


Green Open Access 

As indicated, this is the University's preferred approach for making your research outputs open access. Also known as self-archiving it involves no costs. Green OA (self-archiving) allows an author: 

  • to make a version of their publication available on open access 

  • normally, to make it available in a repository (such as AURA etc.) after an embargo period (e.g. 6 or 12 months after the item has been published in a journal) 

For example, a version which can often be self-archived in a repository is the author’s final peer-reviewed MSS, as submitted to the publisher (incorporating referees’ comments). Although, it will not contain the publisher’s final formatting and other features associated with the Version of Record, it is nevertheless a valuable surrogate for the Version of Record. Access to it hugely benefits the researcher and the scholarly community. 

Getting Permission to Self-archive your Article 

The version which an author may deposit in a repository will be stipulated by the publisher’s copyright policy, or in the licence agreement which an author signs transferring copyright to the publisher for publication. As suggested under Gold OA, publishers often provide this information on their websites. 

Or the SHERPA/ROMEO website contains information on many publishers’ copyright and licence to publish policies. 


Gold Open Access 

This means that an author pays the publisher to make a journal article or conference paper fully OA as soon as it is published. Essentially in return for an Article Processing Charge (APC) Gold OA gives access to the publisher’s “Version of Record” from the day of publication: 

  • the publisher will make a copy of the final article, as published, free for anyone to access from the publisher’s own website, on the day the article is published 

  • depending on the publisher it may also be permissible to deposit a copy of the article in AURA and/or a subject-based repository, such as Europe PubMed Central (formerly UK PubMed Central) 

  • the rights to “re-use” an article published under Gold OA are normally more generous than in other publishing models (for example, text and data mining might be permitted) 

Details of what each publisher allows can be found in any Instructions/Guides to Authors available on the publisher’s website; and/or in the licence agreement you sign with the publisher to publish your article. Or the SHERPA/ROMEO website contains information on many publishers’ copyright and licence to publish policies. 

Funder mandates, from such bodies as Wellcome and RCUK, are strict policies on publishing papers from research funded by the body concerned. You should ensure that you understand, and fully comply with, any funder mandates and their requirements if you are a recipient of a grant from any funding body, and your grant leads to published research outputs. Check the terms and conditions of your grant. 

You can also find details on the funder policies of many research funding bodies and agencies on SHERPA/JULIET.


The REF and Open Access

Post 2014 REF Open Access 

The four main UK higher education funding bodies, including the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), have recently announced their policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF). 

The policy requires that, in order to be eligible for submission in the next REF, all journal articles and conference proceedings with an ISSN number that have been accepted for publication on or after 1 April 2016 must be publicly accessible through an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance for publication. 

The policy does not apply to monographs or other long form publications, to non-textual outputs, research data, conference proceedings published with an International Standard Book Number (ISBN), or publications that must remain confidential for security or commercial reasons. 

Things you need to know about the REF.


Outputs Repository Requirements Time Lines Version(s)

Journal Articles


Conference Proceedings with ISSN Number

Institutional repository (AURA); deposit through PURE

Subject repositories - arXiv; PubMed Central

Within 3 months of acceptance for publication


Where embargo applies, depaosit must be made and metadata must be discoverable within 3 months of acceptance for publication

Acceptable embargo periods:

  • 12 months - Panels A, B (STEM)
  • 24 months - Panels C, D (HASS)
Final author version or 'post-print' which can be replaced with the final version at a later date


REF Open Access – Frequently Asked Questions 

  • To help you prepare for the Open Access Policy we have provided a downloadable guide. You can access it here 

  • A more detailed summary of the HEFCE requirements is here 

  • The full HEFCE policy can be accessed here 

  • The funding councils have also published a FAQ document which is here 

  • A list of library staff who can provide advice and support is available from the Help and Support tab below. 


Open Access Information sessions March/April 2015: 

Any output that falls within the scope of this policy and is submitted to the post-2014 REF but does not meet the requirements without a valid exemption will be given an unclassified score and will not be assessed. 


What should researchers do? 

The REF open access policy formally applies to papers accepted after 1 April 2016. The funding councils expect institutional compliance much sooner than that, so we are asking for accepted manuscripts from 1 April 2015. 

Any questions? See our Help and Support information in the tab below or E-mail openaccess@abdn.ac.uk

Guides & Resources on Open Access

Funder Mandates 

University of Aberdeen Open Access Policy and Documents 

Green Open Access 

  • Open Access Workflow: use the workflow as a guide to the key steps in Green OA publishing of your research 

  • SHERPA/FACT: use to check if the journal you wish to publish in has a Green OA publication route, and complies with your funder's requirements for open access to research 

  • PURE/AURA: log in to PURE to update your publication details and publish your final post-print in AURA 

Gold Open Access 

If you need to publish using Gold OA please read the "Paying Article Processing Charges" guide before submitting the Article Processing Charges Form: 

  • PURE/AURA: log in to PURE to update your publication details and publish your output in AURA 


Presentations on OA 


Help and Support

Help and Support

If you need help or advice on any aspect of OA publishing at Aberdeen then:

  • you may find an answer to your question in the Guides and Resources tab or under Online Help in the table below

  • or please use the contacts in the following tables for specific issues; or use the general email help account openaccess@abdn.ac.uk


Online Help with Specific Issues and Contact Names

Issue Online Help Contact Email Tel.
Help with the Article Processing Charges form Guide Joanna Adams j.adams@abdn.ac.uk ext.7875
Help with checking RCUK and Wellcome journal compliance and funder mandates, for publishing your article


Joanna Adams j.adams@abdn.ac.uk ext.7875
Help with updating information about your publications in PURE PURE (see particularly User Guide and How to Movies) Joanna Adams j.adams@abdn.ac.uk ext.7875
Help with depositing research outputs in AURA PURE (see particularly Adding New Content guide)   AURA Team ext.7875
Help with updating ResearchFish   Andrew Phillips andrew.phillips@abdn.ac.uk ext. 3870
Help with updating PURE   Nykohla Strong n.strong@abdn.ac.uk ext. 2077
All other enquiries about OA publishing at Aberdeen     openaccess@abdn.ac.uk  



Contact your Information Consultant if you just want more general information on Open Access publishing or to arrange a presentation by LSC&M on OA and OA publishing at Aberdeen for your College, School or Department.

Library Contacts by

Institute Contact Email Tel. 
College of Life Sciences and Medicine Mel Bickerton m.bickerton@abdn.ac.uk ext. 7876
Rowett Institute Mel Bickerton m.bickerton@abdn.ac.uk ext. 7876
College of Physical Sciences  Susan McCourt s.mccourt@abdn.ac.uk ext. 3287
College of Arts and Social Sciences (Law and Business) Janet Mackay j.i.mackay@abdn.ac.uk ext. 2572
College of Arts and Social Sciences (Education and Social Sciences) Claire Molloy c.a.l.molloy@abdn.ac.uk ext. 4813
College of Arts and Social Sciences (DHP and Language & Literature) Ewan Grant e.grant@abdn.ac.uk ext. 2587