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What is open access?

What is open access?

Open access is the free availability of research outputs to anyone at point of access. The Open Access movement is a response to a number of developments and challenges within the scholarly communication and open science landscape. Open access publishing is defined by the Bethesda, Berlin and Budapest statements on open access publishing

Key drivers for open access include the following.

  • Technology allows quicker and cheaper dissemination of research outputs

  • Journal subscription costs continue to rise well above inflation and libraries are struggling to keep up

  • Growing demand from research funders for public access to publicly funded research

 While it is common to see journal articles and conference papers published open access, any research output can be open access, including monographs, book chapters, theses and research data. To be open access, outputs should all meet the following principles as a minimum.

  • Free to read and download by anyone, anywhere in the world over the internet.

  • Minimum restrictions on reuse, although author attribution is required. 

Useful introductions to open access

Open access is broadly achieved through publishing routes known as Green and Gold. These are outlined below.

This information leaflet on open access gives a brief overview and introduction to open access support available from Library Services while our roadmap to open access compliance is a simple step-by-step guide on what researchers need to do to meet University, REF and funder open access requirements.  

For a  general overview of the open access movement see the guide from expert Peter Suber. There is also an introductory video lecture introducing open access by Brunel and an 8 minute video introduction by phdcomics, linked at the bottom of this page.

Routes to open access

There are two main models by which you can disseminate your research as open access, Green and Gold. These are not mutually exclusive.

Green open access

"When you deposit a version of your paper into an institutional or subject repository..."

  • Subject to journal embargo periods

  • Available from a secondary source. Typically this is the Author Accepted Manuscript rather than the formatted publisher version deposited by authors themselves. For a clear definition on document versions, please see the information here.

Gold open access

"When you pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) to a publisher for immediate open access from the publisher's platform..."

  • Available immediately upon publication

  • Available from the publisher's website or platform

  • No charge to access, read or download

  • An Article Processing Charge (APC) may be levied on publication 

  • Typically made available under a Creative Commons licence​.

Brunel's Open Access policy

Brunel's Open Access Mandate forms part of the Research Integrity Code, along with other policies, including  Research Data Management and Intellectual Property Rights. The Code and the individual policies within it, can also be found on the University website.

The Code outlines the University's commitment to meeting funder open access policies, Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct and the Universities UK (UUK) Concordat to support research integrity which the University fully supports. 

Why choose open access routes?

Benefits for research and authors

Open access helps researchers disseminate their outputs more widely, which in turn can maximise reach and impact. Where research is open, this can increase citations and reuse,  and help stimulate collaboration, the exchange of scholarly ideas and promote more rapid scientific progress.

Through open access, students and teaching staff have unrestricted access to research, regardless of economic status or institutional affiliation, providing the freedom to use and re-purpose research materials in new and interesting ways.

This also helps improve engagement of the general public with research,  encouraging lifelong learning and giving businesses and other organisations access to research to encourage innovation in wider society.

Compliance with funder policies

Research funders are keen to encourage grant funded outputs to be as widely disseminated as possible and  to be openly accessible. A number of funders mandate open access for institutions and researchers who receive public funding, through publisher websites and institutional or subject repositories.

Many funder policies, including  those from UKRI, European Commission and Wellcome Trust, require papers to be made open access. Non-compliance may put future grant applications at risk or lead to sanctions which may include reduced  grant funds.

The University reports on compliance with UKRI open access policy for grant funded outputs as a condition of funding. Open access compliance is a key requirement of Research England's Research Excellence Framework (REF) exercise.  Journal articles and conference proceedings must be available in an open access form to be eligible for the REF, and non-compliant outputs may be ineligible for submission.