What is Open Access?

What is Open Access?

Open access is permanent free unrestricted access to digital literature such as journal articles and books. It is open to all without charge and licencing terms allow liberal reuse provided that the original source is cited.This facilitates discovery and sharing of your work.

Many research funders, such as UKRI, Wellcome Trust and European Commission, and the Research Excellent Framework (REF) have open access policies which aim to make research outputs openly available (find out more about funder open access policies and REF open access policy).

The University of Aberdeen encourages open access where possible through either the green or gold route.

Watch a YouTube video on

Green open access
  • The article is published in a journal via subscription route usually for free, and the author can self-archive the accepted manuscript (link to glossary) (AAM) in a subject repository or institutional repository (usually after an embargo period specified by the publisher).
  • The AAM is made open access at no charge. Few publishers (e.g. Royal Society) allow to apply CC BY licence to the AAM, but usually the copyright of the work is transferred to the publisher; as a result re-use of the article is only permitted within the restrictions of publishers’ copyright.
  • The SHERPA/ROMEO website contains information on many publishers’ copyright and licence to publish policies.

Green Open Access at UoA: As soon as you have a research output (journal article, conference contribution, blog, book, chapter, etc.) accepted for publication please send (1) acceptance email AND (2) a copy of the author accepted manuscript (AAM) to paperaccepted@abdn.ac.uk and we will deposit the article in Pure/AURA in accordance with REF and publisher self-archiving policies.

Gold open access
  • Published work is freely available to read and re-use via the publisher’s website immediately on publication.
  • Can be via a fully open access journal where an Article Processing Charge (APC) may apply or by making a single article open access in an otherwise subscription journal. These are called 'hybrid' journals and they always impose an APC.
  • The work may be published under a Creative Commons licence and where the APC is paid by a funder then usually the CC BY licence is mandated.
  • Copyright of the work remains with the author/s.

See our Open Access Publisher Agreements where University of Aberdeen corresponding authors may be eligible to publish gold open access at no cost.

Beware of predatory journals!

Paying an APC for open access is a common and legitimate practice but there are some predatory publishers or journals who will charge authors a fee for publication with no intention of providing the expected services – e.g. editorial or peer review. Think. Check. Submit is a useful resource to help you evaluate publications when you are choosing where to publish your research. 

Open Access for Books
  • The OAPEN Foundation has launched a new open access (OA) books toolkit for researchers and academic book authors. The toolkit is a free-to-access, stakeholder-agnostic resource that aims to help authors better understand OA for books, increase trust in OA book publishing, provide reliable and easy-to-find answers to questions from authors, and to provide guidance on the process of publishing an OA book. Access the toolkit.
  • Many publishers allow deposit of the author accepted manuscript of a book chapter or portion of a book in the institutional repository. Please contact us for help checking your publisher self archiving policy for books.
  • If you are thinking about publishing a book take a look at this blog post offering guidance for academics on negotiating contracts with publishers.
CC Licences

Creative Common licensing are tools that allow a standardised way to grant copyright permissions to individual creative work. Creative Commons licenses are often applied to open access research outputs to guarantee free access in the long term and allow other researchers to reuse and build upon previous research findings more easily.

CC BY (Attribution Licence): anyone can reuse the work as long as attribution is made to the original author (i.e. they must cite the original publication). This allows maximum dissemination, and it enables all kinds of academic and creative reuse. CC BY licence is mandate by most funders (e.g. UKRI, Welcome).

CC BY-SA (Share Alike): the work can be reused for all kinds of purposes, but any newly created work must also be shared under the same licence (e.g. you could not create a new work and then issue it under a more open or more restrictive licence)

CC BY-ND (No Derivatives): the work can be reused as is, without modification. This might be useful if the integrity of the original work is important.

CC BY-NC (Non-Commercial): all kinds of reuse are permitted as long as they are for non-commercial purposes.

CC BY-NC-SA (non-commercial, share alike): re-use permitted only for non-commercial purposes; any newly created work must be shared under the same licence

The CC BY-NC-ND is the most restrictive CC licence. It only allows others to freely download and redistribute the work, but not modify or build upon it for commercial purposes.

Gold and green open access outputs under CC BY NC ND licence are not compliant with UKRI and Wellcome funder policies.

See a quick guide on copyright and licences by the British Library.

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, improving researchers’ reputation. 
  • 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. 

See a quick guide on how to make your work more visible online by the British Library.

Doubts about which open access route to choose? Check our quick open access publishing guide.

Do you want to publish gold open access but don’t have funds to cover APCs? Check our read and publish agreements where corresponding affiliated authors may be eligible to publish gold open access at no cost.

Is your research funded? Check your funder open access policy before submission to make sure to select a compliant journal. Is the journal of your choice compliant but not covered by our read and publish agreements? You may be eligible to have gold open access APC funded by UoA block grant.

Not found what you were looking for? Contact the open access team at openaccess@abdn.ac.uk