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Open Access Publishing: What is Open Access?

Open Access Overview

Open Access Terminology

Gold Open Access
(Publisher Hosted)
refers to publications that have the final version of record immediately (no embargos) and 100% freely accessible to all.  The author retains the copyright of their article. The two main options for publishing via the Gold route are to 1)choose a journal which publishes Open Access by default or 2) pay the publisher's article processing charge (APC) up front to make their work openly available in a more traditional journal (aka Hybrid OA - see below).  The term Gold OA is misleading since it is not always the best choice (or gold standard). Examples are Molecules and The International Journal of Communication.

Green Open Access
(Author Archived)
refers to publications that have pre-prints or final peer-reviewed manuscripts available online after an embargo period, hosted in an institutional or subject repository.  The copyright of the final published manuscript may belong to the publisher. Publishing via the green route is free for the author(s) and fulfils obligations for many research funders. Sharing work this way usually involves an embargo period but this will be clearly stated by the publisher. Examples are PMC and

Hybrid Open Access
Publication of articles in a subscription based journal where content is behind some type of paywall but selected articles are made available Open Access after the authors or their funders have paid an APC. 
This leads to double-dipping where institutions are effectively paying the publisher twice to access the same content – once when the library subscribes to the journal and again to make the article Open Access.  It is not considered a true Open Access model. 

Article Processing Charges (APCs)
A publishers charge to make something available Open Access. Often needs to be paid prior to publication by either the researcher, their funder or their institution. The charge makes up for the publishers lost revenue from subscriptions or article viewing fees. It also may go towards paying for editorial services like proofreading, editing, indexing and hosting the finished product. APCs can vary widely between journals and disciplines. 

Embargo Period
The period of time that a publisher stipulates authors must wait before they can make their publication openly available in any form. The exact length of an embargo period differs between publications and disciplines but it is usually between 6 and 24 months. The embargo period allows publishers to provide their subscribers with exclusive first access before it is made available to others, including databases.

Green OA requires an article be deposited in an online repository, according to copyright agreements with publishers. There are repositories dedicated to specific disciplines, specific types of output (articles, books, data), and institutional repositories for work produced by faculty and researchers there. Repositories commit to ongoing preservation and access to materials unlike commercial academic social networking sites, such as ResearchGate, which could withdraw access or change their conditions at any time.

Version of Record
The final edited, formatted version of an article produced by the publisher for publication in their journal, either in print or as a PDF.  APCs are sometimes attributed to paying for the cost of this work.

Pre-print or final peer-reviewed manuscript
A version of an article that has all the content, but does not have the final editing and formatting completed by a journal.  A publishing company will sometimes allow such a copy to be available online after an embargo period while requiring the public to subscribe to a journal or pay an article viewing fee to access the final formatted one.

The OA Issue Explained

The 12 yr old part is fictional, but the $11,000 price tag is not.  This is an example of Hybrid publishing which is not considered a true Open Access model.

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