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What is open access?

Open access is about making the products of research freely accessible to all. It allows research to be disseminated quickly and widely, the research process to operate more efficiently, and increased use and understanding of research by business, government, charities and the wider public.

Green and gold routes to open access

There are two complementary mechanisms for achieving open access to research.

The first mechanism is for authors to publish in open-access journals that do not receive income through reader subscriptions.

The second is for authors to deposit their refereed journal article in an open electronic archive.

These two mechanisms are often called the ‘gold’ and ‘green’ routes to open access: 

  • Gold – This means publishing in a way that allows immediate access to everyone electronically and free of charge. Publishers can recoup their costs through a number of mechanisms, including through payments from authors called article processing charges (APCs), or through advertising, donations or other subsidies.
  • Green – This means depositing the final peer-reviewed research output in an electronic archive called a repository. Repositories can be run by the researcher’s institution, but shared or subject repositories are also commonly used. Access to the research output can be granted either immediately or after an agreed embargo period.

Why does open access matter?

View the Jisc video: 'How is Open Access important to the UK economy and society?' (1.25 min)

What do others say?

The 'Finch' report - Dame Janet Finch chaired an independent working group on open access. The group's report, published in June 2012, supported the case for open access publishing through a balanced programme of action.

The report recognised the need for different channels to communicate research results, but recommended support for the 'gold' route in particular.

Government - The Government accepted all recommendations in the Finch report. In its formal response it has asked the four UK higher education funding bodies and the Research Councils to put the recommendations into practice by working with universities, the research and publishing communities. 

Research Councils - The Research Councils have reflected the Government's response in their policy on open access. They have set out their support for  both ‘gold’ and ‘green’ routes. But they also prefer routes that lead to immediate open access and create the maximum opportunity to freely reuse research outputs. 

Page last updated 31 March 2017