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Open Access

This research guide provides readers with a basic understanding of Open Access, which is broadly defined as content that is free to access and re-use.

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What is Open Access?

Open access (OA) refers to material that is available online and can be read by everyone for free. It is often available for use and sharing without the copyright and licensing restrictions commonly placed on published works. By making their work available in this manner, authors ensure that the broadest possible audience can read and use it, without limiting it to only those who are affiliated with research libraries or can afford costly journal subscriptions. Open access is not defined by a particular business model or type of content. Rather, open access is an approach to sharing one's work with the wider world.

What are the different types of open access for works (journal articles, books, book chapters, etc)?

You have several options when choosing to make a journal article open.

  • Platinum or Diamond OA: Publishing in an OA journal that does not charge any author-side fees is becoming a more common option as innovative business models evolve in the world of scholarly communication. For examples of platinum/diamond OA journals, take a look at the Open Library of Humanities, which makes scholarship freely available without author-facing charges.

  • Gold OA: Publishing in an explicitly open access journal, which might involve paying an article processing charge (APC)—a fee that is commonly used to offset the lack of paid subscriptions to support the journal. According to the University of Nevada Las Vegas Libraries: “Article Processing Charges (APCs) are charged to authors of scholarly articles during the publication process.  APCs are used by open access journals in lieu of subscription fees that libraries and readers traditionally have paid to gain access to research articles. APCs shift the burden of journal production costs (editing, peer review, hosting, archiving, preservation), to authors from readers. Paying an APC results in an article that is available to anyone with an internet connection. Corporate, non-profit, society, academic, and other publishers use a variety of models to meet their income needs and publishing service costs, and charging APCs is one model.”

  • Hybrid OA: Publishing in a journal that uses both open access and subscription models for making its content available to readers. APCs for these journals can be just as high (if not higher) as open access journals. High-profile journals and publishers in a number of disciplines are developing hybrid options for authors who choose (or are required by funding mandates) to make their work open.

  • Green OA: Publishing in a traditional subscription journal and self-archive a version of your article in your institutional or disciplinary repository (negotiating for the right to do so if necessary). Thousands of peer-reviewed materials are available in Deep Blue Documents through the University of Michigan Library, for example.

How do I know which OA option to pick when publishing?

All four options listed above will allow you to share some version of your work with the wider world. However, your decision will likely depend on two key factors:

  • Amount you are willing or able to pay (either out of pocket or via research funds) to publish your article, book, or book chapter.

  • Importance of publishing with particular “prestige” journals or publishers to secure tenure or promotion

This combination of factors can produce many different results. For example, early-career scholars often have access to fewer research funds or grants to cover publication charges, and often feel pressured to publish in particular journals, or with particular publishers, in order to satisfy tenure requirements. These individuals might choose to publish in a subscription journal, or with a particular book publisher, and make use of other means to provide access to their work. 

Scholars who want to ensure their materials will be available to communities beyond the academy might choose an open access journal or book publisher to ensure the broadest possible access to their work, regardless of fees. 

Some researchers might have publication requirements imposed by funding agencies, mandating that they share their work openly in accordance with the funder's rules. 

It is possible that a top journal or leading publisher in your field might have very author-friendly agreements, allowing you to publish your work in accordance with open access principles without having to compromise on your need (or desire) to have it appear in a particular journal.

The most important thing to remember is that there are many ways to make your work open. Choose the method that works for you and your co-authors.

Where can I start looking for OA journals, books, and data relevant to my research?

I’m hitting paywalls. Is there any way I might access what I need right now?

Before utilizing your interlibrary loan and document delivery options, you might consider using one or both of the web tools listed below to see if the material you seek is freely available elsewhere online, such as through a disciplinary or institutional repository. If you’re a student, faculty, or staff member at U-M, you can also use the library bookmarklet to access the materials via the U-M Library.

How do I evaluate an OA journal for my own research and publication goals?

Speaking with colleagues in your field about OA journals and publishing options is often a good first step. For those interested in conducting a more detailed evaluation themselves, try the following sources.

Does U-M have an institutional repository? Can I deposit my work in it?

Deep Blue Documents and Deep Blue Data are the University of Michigan’s institutional repositories. These platforms expand worldwide access to documents and data produced by researchers affiliated with the university.

If you or a collaborator have an affiliation with the University of Michigan, you may submit your work to Deep Blue.

It’s important to make sure you have the rights to deposit your work in the institutional repository. The U-M Library Copyright Office’s template author’s addenda can help you retain rights when negotiating with publishers.  

“Green OA” publication occurs when you self-archive a version of your article in your institutional or disciplinary repository (negotiating for the right to do so if necessary).

You can get in touch with the Deep Blue team at to learn more about your options for sharing documents and data in the University of Michigan’s institutional repository.

How can I secure funding for publication in an OA journal?

Many grants provide funding for publication and may require open access publication of some sort. Check the terms of your grant and your liaison in ORSP if you have questions about the specific terms of your sponsored research.

The Simmons University OA Publication Funds Directory, as well as SHERPA/Juliet, might be good places to begin your search for potential funding opportunities. Be sure to look for funding opportunities applicable to the affiliations of yourself and your collaborators alike. Why Open Research also has a helpful resource on open access funding.

How can I secure funding to publish an OA monograph?

We suggest looking at TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem).

TOME is an initiative from the Association of American Universities, Association of Research Libraries, and Association of University Presses to advance the wide dissemination of scholarship by humanities and humanistic social sciences faculty members through open access editions of peer-reviewed and professionally edited monographs. University of Michigan is a founding member and offers grants to university faculty every year.

Are there any discounts available for U-M authors?

Some publishers offer discounts on article processing charges (APCs) to U-M authors seeking to publish their work in an Open Access format. Please check with the specific publisher to determine whether these discounts remain in place before choosing to submit your work.

Do all OA journals charge article processing charges (APCs)?

No. It is a myth that all OA journals impose APCs. OA journals that do not charge such fees are often referred to as “platinum” or “diamond” OA. For example, the Open Library of Humanities utilizes a consortial funding model, with support from some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world, to offer OA publication opportunities to scholars without imposing any APCs.

Some college and university campuses around the United States offer institutional funds for covering the OA publication fees of their authors. To learn more, visit SPARC’s page on campus open access funds. Be sure to look for funding opportunities applicable to the affiliations of yourself and your collaborators alike.

Further, it is important to note that some non-OA journals do charge publication fees by page, for color figures, etc. Author-side publication charges are not exclusive to certain OA journals, and never have been.

How do I raise awareness about the professional benefits of OA with my supervisor, colleagues, or collaborators?

There is plenty of research to suggest that OA articles receive some amount of citation advantage over their subscription-access counterparts. 

For more information on this advantage, consult the following journal articles:

For an older list of articles on the OA citation advantage, consult this list from SPARC Europe.

How do I get students, faculty, or staff involved in campus OA advocacy?

You can review popular resources for campus engagement provided by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international advocacy organization of academic and research libraries “committed to making Open the default for research and education.”

We also recommend getting in touch with the U-M Library Copyright Office via email.

What is the relationship of OA to Open Educational Resources (OERs)?

Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OERs) are part of a much broader “Open” movement in the world of research and education—which also includes Open Data sharing, Open Science documentation, and Open Source software development—seeking to promote replicability and transparency while spurring innovation and fostering greater equity in access to knowledge. 

The “All Rights Reserved” approach traditional in scholarly communication often demands that authors transfer copyright to publishers. By contrast, OA and OER empower creators to retain their rights, and assign licenses to their work that explicitly allow for sharing. Such licensing—including, but not limited to, the suite of Creative Commons licenses—is a vital component in how the term “Open” applies here. As such, “Open” can signal not just greater affordability for end users, but often greater reusability as well.

More on Open Educational Resources:

Where can I find up-to-date information and news about Open Access and OERs?

Who might I contact at the University of Michigan Library to learn more about Open Access Repositories and Digital Preservation, Open Research Data, or Open Science?

We recommend contacting Deep Blue Repository and Research Data Services at the following email address to learn more about how the University of Michigan can preserve your scholarly work digitally while extending its visibility online:

Please consult Getting Started with Deep Blue and Deep Blue FAQ before reaching out to the team.

Who might I contact at the University of Michigan Library to learn more about Open Access and Research Impact Metrics?

We recommend contacting the U-M Library’s resident expert on research impact, who helps scholars manage their public identity and gauge their influence in their respective fields.

Who might I contact at the University of Michigan Library to learn more about Open Education at the University of Michigan?

We recommend contacting the Center for Academic Innovation's copyright specialist, who has expertise in Open Education and the OER initiatives at the university.

Who might I contact at the University of Michigan Library to learn more about Open Access Publishing Services at the University of Michigan?

We recommend contacting the Director of Publishing Services, who leads a division focused on innovative approaches to scholarly publishing.