Michigan State University

Open Access Publishing

Open Access (OA) is a publication model based on free and unrestricted access to scholarly research outputs.

The traditional model of scholarly publication relies on commercial publishers to facilitate the process of selection, peer review, editing, and dissemination. Libraries, in turn, purchase and provide access to books and journals. By leveraging the ability of the Internet to freely share information, OA provides us with an alternative publishing model. However, the issue is complex and multi-faceted as the human resources and technical infrastructure required to support scholarly publishing must be accounted for.

An Open Access Publication as defined by the Bethesda Statement is one that meets the following two conditions:

  1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use.
  2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving (for the biomedical sciences, PubMed Central is such a repository).

Why publish open access?

Academic Impact


  • Compliance with research funder policies: Many funding agencies now require some kind of public access to research publications resulting from their grants. In the United States, National Institutes of Health funded projects have a public access policy (see: NIH Public Access Policy). Public access is required after 12 months, so this is not technically “open access” but embargoed public access.

Why not to publish open access?

Journal reputation, review process, impact factors, and audience are also influential issues to consider when you decide where to submit your manuscript to publish. If you want to make your research open access and are not able to identify a suitable OA journal, remember that many traditional journals do allow an open access option for individual articles (see below) and other journals may not be open access but may be free after an embargo period or at least more reasonably priced. If you choose to publish in a journal without an open access option,  there are other steps you can take to ensure your rights as an author to distribute your work, such as self-archiving.

How can I make my publications open access?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a publisher. Depending on your field, journal and book publishers may or may not provide open access choices. Make an educated choice when it comes to your publication venue and make considerations for OA publishing from the beginning of your research project (e.g., consider budgeting for OA fees). As you’ll find out, the costs to maintain a system of publication are not obliterated by OA; subsidizing of publication costs happen one way or another.

There are two main OA publishing options:

  • Gold:  publish in a journal that will make your article open access immediately.
  • Green:  self archive your article to make it open access. 

The colors gold and green refer to the SHERPA RoMEO (Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access Rights MEtadata for Open archiving) classification scheme for open access publishing and archiving options.

Gold: Publish in open access journals or journals with an open access option

OA journals or journals with an open access option provide a venue to publish your work that facilitates free and unfettered access immediately. There are multiple types of journals that allow open access:

1. Fully open access journals

2. Author pays open access journals

  • Authors pay a fee to the journal (anywhere from $90 to $3,000) to subsidize the cost of making the article immediately freely available
  • Authors are usually allowed to self-archive their work
  • Some publishers offer institutional memberships in exchange for discounted author fees, e.g., MSU authors get a discount on BioMed Central fees  
  • Some universities offer author fee funds where you can submit an application to have the library cover your OA author fees. MSU does not currently offer this service.
  • Authors can write OA fees into their grant proposals
  • Example: BioMed Central journals, PLoS journals, Taylor & Francis Open/Routledge Open journals

3. Author pays open access options in traditional journals

  • Hybrid journals contain some articles that are open access and others that are available only to subscribers
  • Authors are given the choice when they publish whether to pay a fee (anywhere from $90 to $3000) make their article immediately freely available
  • Authors are usually allowed to self-archive their work
  • Many of the largest academic publishers are allowing this option on all or most of their journals. Examples: Elsevier Open Access Option, Oxford Open, Sage Choice, Springer Open, Taylor & Francis Open Select

Article Processing Fees for open access publishing are sometimes supplemented by the MSU Libraries. 

Green: Self-archive Open Access copies of your work

If you choose to self-archive your research article, you will need to pay attention to your copyright and author agreement from the original place of publication. The SHERPA RoMEO website has further analyzed and categorized journal self-archiving policies into four types  (with colors) and has a journal look-up tool that you can use to help determine your options.

  • Green:  Can archive both pre-and post-prints of articles
  • Blue:  Can archive only post-prints
  • Yellow:  Can archive only pre-prints
  • White:  No archiving allowed

Pre-prints are the authors' manuscripts pre-refereering or review.  Post-prints are manuscripts that have been reviewed, refereed, and corrected, but not formatted for publication.  The final published versions of articles that are corrected and formatted by the publisher (pdfs) usually cannot be self archived on the web unless they are Gold open access.   

What repositories are available to me for self-archiving?

  • You can self-archive your articles on your faculty or project website.
  • You can self-archive by submitting your article to a disciplinary repository. Examples of disciplinary repositories include:
    • ArXiv is an archive for preprints that has predominantly been used by scientists in the fields of theoretical physics, mathematics, and computer science.  Very recently, quantitative biologists/geneticists have also been adding their preprints.   It is maintained by Cornell University.
    • PubMed Central is a free archive of the biomedical literature containing articles that were contributed by publishers or by authors. The National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy mandates that investigators submit electronic versions of final accepted manuscripts from research that is publicly funded to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication.
    • Social Science Research Network includes both abstracts and full text preprints of articles from the social sciences and the humanities, and is particularly strong in economics.
  • Some universities have institutional repositories that host self-archived materials. MSU does not currently have a repository for self-archiving, but if you have materials that you believe are an important part of the scholarly record and are not published elsewhere you should contact your subject librarian to talk about all available options. If you co-author an article with someone whose university does an institutional repository, you can self-archive your work there.

Embargoed public access journals

  • Some journals do not offer an immediate open access option to authors, but they do provide free access to all of their articles after an initial embargo period, usually of 1-2 years.  
  • Current journal issues still require a subscription to access
  • Authors may or may not be able to self-archive their work
  • While publishing in this type of journal may not provide all the benefits of publishing open access, this access should be considered by authors when choosing where to publish.  
  • Funding agencies like the National Institutes of Health do not require open access publishing, but only require access after a 12 month embargo.  
  • Examples: many societies publishing on HighWire, Learned Publishing