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Open Access Publishing: a Practical Guide

What is Open Access?

What is Open Access?      

There are two main principles behind open access (OA):

1. Research outputs should be free at the point of access to anyone with an internet connection, as soon as possible after publication.

2. Restrictions on reproduction and re-use should be minimised so that research can be distributed and built upon.

The aim is to increase the ability of researchers, members of the public, and industry to access the research they need and give them the freedom to build upon research already carried out.

The University's Open Research Statement outlines York's commitment to the values of open access and the wider concept of open research. It also confirms that staff and students will be supported to follow these principles in their work and study. 




Document versions

Green open access often involves providing access to versions of the manuscript generated before the final published version was reached. Whether or not an author can make a manuscript open access will depend on when in the publication process it was produced.

Also known as: Post-print, Postprint, AAM, Final manuscript, Author's version, Version 2

Definition: The version which has passed the editorial process and peer-review and is ready to go forward to being prepared for publication. This version will include any academically-necessary changes which have been made as a result of peer-review. This version will not include any formatting or copy-editing applied by the publisher. 

Sharing: You have the right to make this version available through a non-commercial website or through an open access repository. You can also post this version to commercial sites like ResearchGate or For teaching staff and postgraduate researchers, publishers may apply an embargo meaning the manuscript cannot be made available until a certain period has elapsed since publication.

REF compliance: Depositing this version in the University's research repository will ensure the paper is eligible for REF submission.

Funder open access compliance: Making this version open access will fulfil most funder policies.



Also known as: Pre-print, Author's original, Original manuscript, Submitted version, Version 1

Definition: The version prepared by the author(s) that they consider as being of sufficient quality to submit for publication. It may have already been submitted or be intended for submission but it does not incorporate any changes made as a result of the publisher's peer-review or editorial process.

Sharing: Most publishers will allow the submitted manuscript to be posted on a range of websites, including open access repositories, immediately - either before or after publication of the version of record. Some publishers will not allow posting to commercial sites, including ResearchGate and Be aware, a small number of journals may not publish an article if it has already been made available as a pre-print.

Funder open access compliance: Making this version open access will not fulfil most funder policies.



Also known as: Copy-edited manuscript, Galley proof, Review copy.

DefinitionThis is a version created as part of the publication process, usually including copy-editing, layout, or typesetting added by the publisher. These are primarily used by the publisher for internal purposes but copies may be sent to authors for consultation. 

Sharing: Most publishers will not allow these versions to be shared on any websites or open access repositories. Check your journal/publisher policy.

Funder open access compliance: If your publisher does allow this version to be made open access then it will fulfil most funder policies, including requirements for the REF, provided that the embargo length specified is within a range acceptable to the funder.



Also known as: Version of record, VoR, Publisher's PDF, Final version, Version 3

Definition: This is the version that has been formally published by the journal or publisher. This includes versions which have been released "early online" but does not include versions that have been made available by the publisher pending copy-editing and formatting, which would be considered as accepted manuscripts or proofs.

Sharing: Most publishers will not allow this version to be uploaded to any websites or open access repositories unless they have published it as open access themselves. Often this will involve paying an open access fee prior to publication. Check your journal/publisher policy.

Funder open access compliance: If this version can be made open access it will fulfil most funder policies, including requirements for the REF, provided that the embargo length specified is within a range acceptable to the funder.



Open Access for Postgraduate Researchers   

Postgraduate researchers (PGRs) are encouraged to make their research openly available wherever possible. Most of the University's publishing agreements are open to students as well as staff, meaning that students can publish their work openly, with most major publishers, free of charge.

Students are not bound by the same open access requirements as staff members, meaning the decision to make a work openly available will largely be governed by personal choice. Unlike staff, under the university open access policy students are not required to deposit a copy of their research papers into the university repository but are encouraged to do so. The exception is that, as a PGR, you are required to deposit your thesis into the White Rose eTheses Online repository - which is shared with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield (see the online guidance for depositing your thesis).

If you PhD research is funded by an external organisation (such as one of the UKRI research councils), then the open access requirements for that funder will usually apply to any publications resulting from that research.

Open access requirements for REF only apply to authors employed a university at the time that a paper is submitted. In most cases this will not apply to PGRs.



Making your publications openly available can have benefits for wider society, but it can also benefit your research and your career.

Openly publishing research can help you reach a wider audience. Groups that might benefit from access to your research outputs include teachers and other professionals, NGOs, independent researchers, businesses and policy makers.

There is evidence to suggest that open access publications are generally accessed and cited more often than those which are not made open access. The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) maintain a list of relevant studies.

Identifying the best route for your work 

It is important to understand your open access options before you submit a paper for publication.

The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of open access (and ensure you comply with any funder and REF requirements) is to deposit the accepted manuscript of your article into the University's research repository - the University will then make this openly available when the final version is published by the journal (Green open access). The University's Research Publications policy means that research staff have the right to do this for any journal article or conference paper that you author. For teaching staff and postgraduate researchers, publisher embargo periods may apply to deposited papers.

If you want the final published version of your research to be made openly available, you can find out whether the journal offers a paid open access option (Gold open access).


Gold open access (aka "open access publishing")
A document is made openly available on the publisher's own website 
Green open access (aka "author self-archiving")
A document is made openly available through an online open access repository



Open Access Licences

Open content licences clearly indicate what users are allowed to do with a publication. They are standardised licences, designed to be easily identifiable by those wishing to reuse your work. They work within the framework of copyright law - the law protects your work from misuse, open content licences enable others to use your work in certain ways without having to ask you for permission.

The most common open content licences are the Creative Commons licences. Most research funders require that their funded publications are released under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.

If you deposit a manuscript into a research repository to be made openly available (the Green route), a Creative Commons licence will normally be automatically applied. 

If your work is to be made openly available on a journal platform (the Gold route), the publisher may give you a variety of Creative Commons licences to choose from.



Training sessions for postgraduate researchers and staff

The Open Research team offer training to postgraduate researchers and staff through the Building Research and Innovation Capacity (BRIC) programme.

To book a session go to: SkillsForge - Postgraduate Researchers or LMS - Staff (login required).

Next sessions:

Show details & booking for all selected sessions

If you need information, take a look at the:

You can also contact the team by email to:

  • ask a question
  • request training for your department, research group, staff and/or postgraduate researchers

Alternatively, book an Open Research Online Appointment to discuss your individual needs.

Twitter feed

Follow York Open Research on Twitter (@UoYOpenRes) for the latest updates and recommended resources from the Open Research team


You can also contact the team by email to:

  • ask a question
  • request training for your department, research group, staff and/or postgraduate researchers
  • provide feedback