MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part II


Open Access


Guest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian

This week’s Open Access (OA) blog will explore the different types of OA.

OA research articles are primarily delivered to the reader via OA journals – the so-called ‘Gold’ route – or repositories (institutional or by discipline) – the ‘Green’ route.

Gold Open Access is immediate OA ie accessible to the reader with no charge.  However, this route often comes with a charge to the author, the so-called Article Processing Charge, or APC, which is levied by publishers for articles published in their journals. The APC is therefore a charge to ‘pay-to-publish’.

OA journals operate under a variety of business models which have been developed to accommodate different disciplines, or the situation in different countries.  Some traditional subscription journals from the mainstream publishers offer an option of publishing OA articles in a so-called ‘hybrid’ model.  The author, or their institution or sponsoring body, will usually have to pay an APC to publish these articles OA, and they will appear alongside the majority of articles in the journal which are ‘pay-per-view’.

It just so happens that many of the high prestige, high impact journals – in which you are probably being encouraged to publish – come with APCs to publish OA, but there are many OA journals which do not charge, or whose APC charges are very low. I will discuss MMU’s response to this in a later blog.

The use of APCs is inevitably controversial, particularly when libraries are already paying to subscribe to the very same journals where APCs are being charged to publish OA.

The Finch Report favours gold OA so, to try to help with the transition to a fully OA model of publishing, the RCUK has given some Universities money to help pay for APCs.  However, the allocation is based on previous and projected funding by the Research Councils so universities such as MMU, which are aspiring to expand their research output but which have not traditionally received a lot of RCUK funding, have not received much of this transition money.

The alternative to the gold route to OA is the green route.  By this route an article can be made available via a repository, either a subject repository eg ArXiv in Physics, Maths and Computer Science, or an institutional repository such as MMU’s e-space, usually after an embargo period imposed by individual publishers (typically 6 months for STEM subjects, longer for the Humanities).  Articles made OA by the green route will not usually be the published version but an ‘author final copy’, or post-print, which has been peer-reviewed and corrected and is, as far as the content is concerned, the same as it appears in the journal.

e-space, MMU’s repository, is managed by the Library.  It contains journal articles, both pre-prints (journal articles submitted for peer-review) and author final copies, as well as book chapters, working papers, conference presentations and other types of output in a variety of file types and formats.

Next time I will explore some of the issues surrounding OA including the  impact and dissemination of research, and how OA works with different disciplines and outputs.


5 thoughts on “Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part II

  1. Thanks Mary, I am interested in using dedicated OA journals and gold OA through APC’s. I noticed that the gold OA APC route is sometimes still associated with a restrictive license of the work. Something to watch out for as they might not always be as open as they seem. It is confusing.

    • In reply to comment, from Mary Pickstone:


      Thank you for your comment about Gold OA and licences on the OA blog.

      The Finch report recommended Gold open access (OA) with CC-BY licences as the ultimate goal. From 1 April 2013, RCUK and the Wellcome Trust have stipulated that any articles arising from research they have funded which are published Gold OA with an Article Processing Charge (APC) must be published with a Creative Commons CC-BY licence. The exact licence (CC-BY, CC-BY-NC, CC-BY-NC-ND etc) may need to be negotiated with the publisher of the article. Further information about Creative Commons Licences can be found at:

      Do you have any examples where publishers are using a restrictive licence to publish Gold OA with an APC?

      You’re correct in thinking that it is all quite complicated and potentially confusing, and something we all need to get our heads round.



      • It was a while ago I commented and even at the time I did not post the examples because I could not remember where I saw it! I can expand on the background though and I have now found some examples.

        I became interested in the distinction between open access and free access because I wanted my publication to include some computer code I used to do an analysis. I wanted someone else to be able to read my paper, get the code, and do the same analysis to check our results, analyse their data in the same way, or build on our work in any number of ways. I realised that Green OA might not be a very good solution because any code included in the paper would be subject to ownership and restriction by the journal license, probably including after the embargo period. Do you know if the re-use license typically changes to CC-x after the embargo? I found no evidence that this happens which seems to seriously undermine the credibility of the green route for open access publishing. I hope I am wrong about that.

        So I investigated the Gold option and found that a journal could make an article free to read whilst limiting derivative uses, however on investigating further I think this problem is quite rare now. There is an interesting editorial in PLOS Biology (2007) explaining the distinction between free access and open access which includes some examples, however in this fast moving area I expect the situation is better now. I also found this article on the RCUK blog explaining their preference for Gold OA being partly because the true open access license supports their principles around public use – the implication being that green open access does not deliver this so well.

        My conclusion was that I should try to publish Gold OA with APC whilst taking care that the license is a true open access one such as those you mention. I could not obtain funds for this so I published in the normal way and did not include the code with the manuscript . Instead I released the code separately on GitHub .

      • Hi David,
        Thanks for your comments – I’ve emailed this to Mary and asked her to reply to your query directly.

  2. Reblogged this on Two-Wheeled Librarian and commented:
    OA explained!

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