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What is open access?

What is open access?

Open access is the principle that publicly funded information should be publicly and freely available to all without paywall restrictions on reuse, remixing and re-sharing, so long as the original creator is acknowledged.

For many researchers their first encounter with open access is as a result of requirements set by funders such as: UKRI, Wellcome Trust, NIHR or the British Heart Foundation.

The value of open access as a societal good can sometimes seem clouded behind the necessary procedures of ensuring that funded research meets funder requirements. This means that the ethos of open access can seem less important than mastering the processes and procedures that oversee how we achieve compliance with policy.

Follow these links for compliance with funder open access policies or our route to open access publishing guide. 

Open access and the public good

Open access means valuing the free, accessible, shareable and transforming potential of knowledge and ideas. When we exchange thoughts with a colleague on a subject of research over a coffee, or direct a student researcher towards an author or specific published material that might be of value for their work, when we share a stimulating or ground-breaking piece of research via social media, or when we invite amateur researchers to help us to further our research with their expertise – all of these moments are embodiments of the same principles that motivate and underpin what is to be a researcher.

Why does open access matter for me?

The first reason that open access matters for a researcher is the simple fact of citation advantage. SPARC Europe finds there is an open access citation advantage in 46 of the 70 studies they monitored, with no advantage recorded in only 17 of the studies covered. Another study found a 400% increase in citation for physics papers uploaded to arXiv prior to publishing versus comparable papers in the same journals. Times Higher Education reports twice the download rate for open access articles against their behind the paywall hidden counterparts. Open access is a verifiable way to increase the reach and impact any given piece of published research output may have.

Open access increases the diversity of publishing options for researchers, beyond the traditional for-profit journals model towards the university playing a decisive role in research publication. UCL Press has been recently re-launched as an open access only publisher, offering a range of periodical and monograph publishing options, the Open Library of Humanities is a non-profit organisation funded via universities paying a yearly membership fee of $800 and playing a role in the direction of the journal platform. The wide range of publications found in both the Directory of Open Access Journals and the Directory of Open Access Books gives a sense of the growing content and the scale of the potential audience for open access articles and monographs.

If you have any questions about open access publishing please contact Open Research Services.

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