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What is open access?

What is open access?

The Open Access movement is a response to a number of developments and challenges within scholarly communications

  • Technology allows quicker and cheaper dissemination of research outputs
  • Journal subscription costs are increasing and libraries are struggling to keep up
  • Growing demand from research funders for taxpayers to be able to access the research they fund

The open and free availability of research outputs to anyone at point of access. Open access material is more frequently published as peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers, but can also include monographs, book chapters, theses and research data.

  • Access is free of charge
  • Free of most restrictions on use (though attribution is still a must)
  • Defined by the Bethesda, Berlin and Budapest statements on open access publishing

Useful introductions to open access

Open access is broadly achieved through publishing models known as 'green' and 'gold'. These are outlined below.

Please find our leaflet on open access, which provides headline information on the subject along with the services available from the library.

Please find here our roadmap to open access compliance. This provides a simple step-by-step guide on what you need to do and how the library will provide support.

An excellent overview of open access is provided by expert Peter Suber. There is also an introductory video lecture introducing open access by Brunel and an 8 minute video introduction by phdcomics, which can be found at the bottom of this page.

Why choose and engage with open access?

Benefits for researchers

Researchers who provide open access to their own work will benefit by wider dissemination and impact; their papers will be more visible, and they will potentially be downloaded and cited more. This increases the amount of accessible research – no more being locked out by paywalls - in turn stimulating collaboration and the exchange of scholarly ideas.

Through open access, Students and teachers 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 engagement of your output with the general public, enabling access to the research that their taxes fund and 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 the recipients of their grants to make their outputs openly accessible. A number of OA policies have been announced in recent years that mandate open access

Many funders’ policies (including RCUK, The EU, COAF and the Wellcome Trust) require papers to be made open access and non-compliance may put future grant applications at risk.

For the post 2014 REF HEFCE have announced a new open access requirement. The core of the policy is that journal articles and conference proceedings must be available in an open access form to be eligible for the post-2014 REF. Non-compliance may put your outputs at risk of being ineligible for submission.

There is a range of detailed information about funder expectations and information on library support available here.

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 a repository..."

  • Subject to journal enforced embargo periods
  • Available from a secondary source, such as
  • Typically this is the Author accepted manuscript rather than 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 APC to a publisher for immediate open access from the publishers platform..."

  • Available immediately upon publication
  • Available at the source of publication (usually the journal website)
  • No charge at point of access for user
  • Typically paid for with APCs (article processing charges) though there are other business models
  • Typically made available under a Creative Commons license​

Brunel's Open Access policy

Brunel's OA policy forms part of the The Research Integrity Code that was agreed by University Senate in 2014. This brings together all the University's research integrity policies in a single document. Policies, including Open Access, Research Data Management and Intellectual Property Rights appear in the appendices. The Code and the individual policies within it, can also be found on the University website.

The RI Code outlines the University's commitment to meeting the requirements of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Policy and Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct and the Universities UK (UUK) Concordat to support research integrity, with which Brunel must comply.

The University is required to monitor how it is implementing the Code and report annually to UUK and RCUK.  Reports include details of research integrity training and support provided by all areas of the University to staff and students, on topics such as research data management, open access, copyright and plagiarism. Brunel may also be audited externally.