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Open Access: What is open access?

What is Open Access?

Open Access

Open access is the process of making your research freely available, enabling as many readers as possible to find and use it regardless of economic circumstances.  Open Access (OA) scholarly literature is digital, online, free of charge, and often subject to less restrictive copyright and licensing than traditionally published works, for both users and authors. (Peter Suber)

Main Principles of Open Access

Spurred on by the development of the Internet, the 'open' movement emerged in the 1990s. Influential statements, including the Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003), and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (2003), were subsequently released. These statements set out the criteria for Open-Access publishing. Publications must be free to read at the point of access and only minimal restrictions on their re-use must be in place.

In the UK, a report written by Dame Janet Finch, Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications (2012), heavily influenced the release of the Research Council's policy on open access the following year. In 2014, the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) announced its own  'Policy for open access in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework.'

The Benefits of Open Access

Open access publishing benefits both the research community and the general public. No university can afford to subscribe to all the journals that are of interest to researchers. Access costs are also a barrier to those based in industry, the charity sector, and in developing countries. Others argue that publicly-funded research should be publicly accessible.

Benefits of open access include:

  • increased visibility of research
  • higher citation counts
  • greater public engagement
  • accelerated opportunities for collaboration
  • avoidance of duplication of research
  • fairness and accountability

For further information see our guide Open Access: a guide for busy researchers.

Open Access at Bath

In line with other UK higher education institutions, the University of Bath supports the Open Access movement. The University therefore requires that peer-reviewed research publications produced by academic staff are made openly available via the University of Bath’s Research Portal.

University of Bath Open Access Deposit Mandate

  1. The University of Bath's Open Access Mandate states that all new peer-reviewed journal articles and published conference proceedings should be deposited in Pure, in full-text form, within three months of the publisher's acceptance date. Compliance with this mandate will mean that you are also meeting REF open access requirements.
  2. Optional deposit of other research outputs such as book sections, reports, working papers and conference presentations is encouraged. These items will be identified as peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed as appropriate.
  3. The library provides support for this activity and will check copyright permissions on all deposited papers.

Why do this?

  1. Increasing the public availability of full-text, peer-reviewed research papers will lead to improved citations and usage. 
  2. Not all potential readers of your work are able to subscribe to the publication in which it appears. Increasing journal subscription prices and university budget cuts will see open access copies more widely utilised.
  3. Publication details entered into Pure will be re-used to reduce duplication of effort by researchers.  These details feed through to the university’s researcher profile web pages and will be used for the university’s REF submission.  Lists can also be exported for appraisal or CV purposes.
  4. Research England have made open access a requirement for the next REF for journal articles and for conference papers published in journals with an ISSN. Adding these to Pure, once they have been accepted for publication, will meet this requirement.
  5. Open access is strongly supported by many funders including the UK Research Councils (UKRI), the European Commission, Wellcome Trust and other charities. These bodies already mandate that publications arising from such funded research are made publicly available. 
  6. Some publishers only allow authors to make their papers publicly available if it is mandated by the institution or funder. 
  7. Many other research-intensive universities have established open access mandates. These include: University College London, University of Bristol, University of Oxford and others. Institutions that do this benefit from increased dissemination and availability of their publications.

What does it mean for researchers?

  • The Open Access Mandate requires researchers to deposit full-text copies of their peer-reviewed journal articles and papers in the University of Bath research repository, Pure.
  • Uploading a copy of your paper and its details to Pure takes only a few minutes. All papers are copyright-checked by the library to comply with publisher policies and permissions and it is a means of safe and legal online storage. The library also offers help and guidance as needed.

Are you REF-ready?

  • Research England’s open access requirements include the condition that outputs can only be submitted to the REF if the final article / version of record has been published open access OR if the author accepted manuscript (of journal articles or conference outputs published in proceedings with an ISSN) has been deposited in an institutional or subject repository within 3 months of acceptance.
  • To ensure that your articles can be considered for the next REF, researchers need to follow these three steps:

Keep, Upload, Contact.

  1. Keep your author’s accepted manuscript for journal articles and conference proceedings (that have an ISSN). This activity is not currently necessary for books, chapters or other output types.
  2. Whether you are the sole author or a co-author, a postgraduate or a professor, you need to keep this version of your paper.
  3. Upload the author’s accepted manuscript to Pure at the point of acceptance. When the publisher sends you an acceptance notification, log into Pure to add the basic publication details and upload the document*. Make sure you add the full acceptance date (YYYY/MM/DD) to the record.
  4. The library will check the document and set the embargo date if required.
  5. The library will make regular checks to see if the article has been published and will update the publication details in Pure, once they become available.

*If the final version of your research output is to be published immediately open access with a Creative Commons licence, you do not need to upload your accepted manuscript into Pure (unless you want to!). Instead, in the Bibliographical Note box in Pure, please indicate: ‘publishing OA'.  

Green Open Access

  • Outputs are published in the traditional manner but a version of the work is archived in an open access repository, such as Pure
  • The permitted version is normally the author accepted manuscript (AAM) however publishers are increasingly stipulating which versions can and can't be uploaded to repositories
  • This route involves no fee to the publisher
  • Publishers often require an embargo (typically 12-24 months) be put in place before the research becomes freely accessible via the repository
  • If you want to check whether the journal that you want to publish in has an embargo period or any other notable licensing requirements then use SHERPA RoMEO to find out about your publishers' conditions for open access archiving.

Unless you choose the Gold route to open access, the University of Bath Open Access Mandate requires that the Green route is followed by all staff publishing peer-reviewed journal articles and published conference proceedings. This requirement is in place because these outputs must be openly available to be eligible for the next REF. For further information, please visit our pages about REF open access requirements.

Gold Open Access

  • An Article Processing Charge (APC) is paid to the publisher, who then makes the final, published version of an output freely available on the journal's website.
  • There is no cost for the reader to access the work, and no embargo is required.
  • The work should have a license that allows maximum reuse, such as a CC-BY license (see our OA licensing tab for further details of Creative Commons licenses).
  • This route to open access is available via journals which only operate a Gold model for publishing their articles.
  • Alternatively, many journals that continue to operate the traditional subscription-based model also allow authors to pay for their papers to be made openly available; these journals are known as 'hybrid'.

Some funders, including the Research Councils and Wellcome Trust, prefer their funded authors to choose this route. Subsequently, they provide funding to cover the cost of these fees. Please see our pages on funder requirements and paying for open access for further information.

When publishing your research openly you will need to consider what licence to use. Your publisher may ask you to select from a number of options if you are paying for your work to be made open. If you choose to self-archive your work your publisher may require that a particular licence is used when it is made available via a repository.

Creative Commons Licencing


Creative Commons licences are the most common licences applied to open access research outputs. These licences allow authors to retain copyright as well as enable others to copy, distribute, and re-use the work without requesting permission each time.

Please be aware that funders, including the Research Councils and members of the Charities Open Access Fund, require certain licences to be selected when publishing your research through the paid route. For further information a please see our pages on funder requirements.

A brief description of the six Creative Commons licences can be found below. Additional information can be found on the Creative Commons website.


The Licences

 Attribution (CC BY) 

  • works can be copied, redistributed, remixed, tweaked, and built upon, even commercially
  • users must credit author for the original creation
  • this is the most accommodating of licences offered

  Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

  • works can be remixed, tweaked, and built upon, even commercially
  • users must credit the author and license their new creations under identical terms
  • as derivatives carry the same licence, commercial use is allowed of them

Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

  • works can be redistributed, for both commercial and non-commercial reasons
  • they must be passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

  • works can be remixed, tweaked, and built upon non-commercially
  • new works must acknowledge the author and be non-commercial
  • new works do not have to license their derivative works on the same terms

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

  • works can be remixed, tweaked, and build upon your work non-commercially
  • new works must credit the author and license their new creations under identical terms

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

  • works can be downloaded and shared as long as the author is credited
  • works can't be changed or used commercially
  • this licence is the most restrictive of the six main licences

Open Access Book Publishing

Although many open access policies focus on journal articles, it is also possible to publish books and book chapters openly.  UKRI and the Wellcome Trust include monographs and book chapters in their open access policy requirements.

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.

The toolkit was created in collaboration with Springer Nature and The University of Glasgow and has been written by a global and diverse group of stakeholders from the academic community and scholarly communications organisations. 

The Library’s Open Access Team can assist you in making the right publishing choice for your work if you are considering pursuing this route. Your options will depend on whether or not you have already published your book.

Funder Requirements

Please visit our Meeting Funder Requirements pages  for more information about the UKRI Open Access Policy for Monographs, Book Chapters and Edited Collections - and how to access the funding available to publish open access.

Wellcome Trust's open access policy includes monographs and book chapters. Funding is available for publishing open access and authors should apply directly to the Wellcome Trust for reimbursement of the costs.

For more advice, please visit our funding pages or contact:

Below is a selection of tools to help you find open access publications.

New ways to locate open material are appearing all the time so this list should not be considered comprehensive.

Research outputs produced by University of Bath researchers, including open access publications, are available via the University's Research Portal.

CORE provides access to millions of scholarly outputs from hundreds of repositories:

Subject repositories:

Directories of open access journals, books, repositories, policies and mandates:

Tools to find open access publications and theses: