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Publishing Resources for STEM Authors: Open Access

A guide with resources to accompany the workshops on publishing for gradute students and post-doctoral researchers.

What is Open Access Publishing?

In its most basic sense, Open Access publishing (OA) refers to publishing to articles, books or other documents in some fashion that allows any user to access the full document without having to pay for it, either by individual purchase, or by having a subscription to the journal in which it appears. OA publishing has grown up along with electronic publishing on the Internet.

However, as the concept has developed, different types of OA publishing have been defined, and additional concepts such as author's retention of rights and the ability of users to  adapt and reuse published materials have become attached to basic OA. Below are some definitions of terms you may see in connection with OA publishing.

  • Green Open Access - Broadly speaking, this is open access outside the traditional journal structure, for which the authors pay no publication fees  Green Open access services include:
    • Preprint servers - These provide access to author-deposited manuscripts, generally with no pre-publication peer review, and are generally subject oriented. See our Preprints page for more information and a listing of preprint servers by discipline.
    • Repositories - These hold author-deposited manuscripts or articles which have frequently (though not necessarily) been accepted for publication in scholarly journals. They may be associated with an institution (such as the University of California's eScholarship) or with a particular discipline (such as the National Institutes of Health 's PubMed Central). See the Repositories section below for more information and examples.
  • Gold Open Access - This term generally refers to conventional scholarly journals in which open access publishing is supported by author publication charges (APC), rather than by subscription.  The cost of APCs can vary widely from one journal to another, as well as exactly what open access features are available.
    • Fully Open Access - This means that all articles in each issue of the journal are open access.
    • Hybrid - These are journals in which each individual author decides whether the article will be published open access (with an APC) or be behind the paywall, meaning that a reader must have access to a subscription in order to read the articles. So, hybrid journals are supported by a mixture of APCs and subscription fees.
  • Platinum or Diamond Open Access - These much more rarely used terms refer to scholarly journals which are fully open access, but are funded by means other than APCs. Examples include Journal of the Electrochemical Society (supported by donations from academic institutions) and ACS Central Science (a highly selective journal supported by revenue from other ACS journals.)
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) - DOAJ is a non-profit organization whose mission is "to increase the visibility, accessibility, reputation, usage and impact of quality, peer-reviewed, open access scholarly research journals globally, regardless of discipline, geography or language." DOAJ lists only fully open access journals according to their evaluation and standards. It is used as a standard for many funders to determine whether a journal qualifies as "open access".
  • Read and Publish agreements - These are a type of contract between publishers and research institutions that allows members of the institution to read all content covered by the  agreement, AND to publish articles in the publisher's journals with no APCs to the authors themselves.
  • Transformative agreements - "At its most fundamental, a contract is a transformative agreement if it seeks to shift the contracted payment from a library or group of libraries to a publisher away from subscription-based reading and towards open access publishing. Though there are many flavors of transformative agreements, the following attempts to offer a description of their core components." - From :Lisa Janicke Hinchcliffe, "Transformative Agreements: A Primer", The Scholarly Kitchen, Apr. 23, 2019,  Read and Publish agreements are a type of transformative agreement.

Why Publish Open Access?

You many be required to.

  • Some institutions, including UCSB, require faculty, staff and students to deposit copies of their manuscripts or links to open access journal articles, in an open access repository. See the Mandates.
  • Some funding sources, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), require authors to deposit their articles in an open access repository. Some, such as the European governmental agencies that have signed on to Plan S, have even more stringent requirements. Again, see the Mandates section for more information.

It may be customary in your discipline.

  • In some fields, most importantly physics, almost all authors deposit their papers in a preprint server, like arXiv. Preprints are growing in importance in other fields as well. See the Preprints section to find if there is a preprint server for your discipline.

You can gain greater recognition for your research.

  • Papers that are not locked behind a paywall are more easily discoverable by the global research community" more views, more downloads, and, in turn, more citations, all other things being equal.

There are ethical reasons to publish open access.

  • Much scholarly research, especially from academic institutions, and especially in the sciences and engineering, is publicly funded. Open access makes that research readily available to the general public whose taxes paid for the research.
  • It provides a degree of equalization between more and less wealthy nations, especially in the global south.


The term Mandates refers to situations where authors are required  to make their publications openly accessible by some agency which has the power to do so. These may include funding agencies, and research insitutions, such as the University of California.

For an overall listing of open access mandates, see ROARMAP (Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies) (


Funding Agencies

Increasingly, both public and private research funders are requiring recipients of their money to publish open access, either by depositing in open access repositories, or by publishing in open access journals.  Details of the requirements will vary by agency. Examples include:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) Open Public Access Policy ( Implemented in 2008, this policy requires NIH funded researchers to deposit copies of their manuscripts in NIH's open access repository, PubMed Central (PMC). Some journals will automatically deposit papers on behalf of the author.
  • Plan S ( Plan S is an alliance of governmental and private funding agencies, primarily in th Europe, which require their researchers to publish in fully open-access journals only. Hybrid journals do not qualify, and some publishers have created fully open-access titles specifically to provide a venue for Plan S-funded research.
  • White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memo (   In August, 2022, the OSTP issued a memo recommending that ALL federal funding agencies develop policies to make their funded research freely available. Some notable points:
    • The due date for this to take effect is still several years down the road, though some agencies are moving ahead swiftly with their policies.
    • This is a recommendation, not an order, so it is possible that some funding agencies may not comply.
    • Unlike some previous mandates, the goal of this recommendation is to make the research available immediately, without an embargo period.

University of California Mandates

In 2013, the UC Academic Senate passed a rule requiring all faculty to deposit copies of their published manuscripts in eScholarship, the University of California open access repository. This was followed by a mandate from the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), applying to all University of California authors, including faculty, post-docs and graduate students.

Open Access Options for UCSB Authors

  • UC Open Access Policies - UC policies govern Senate faculty members, non-Senate employees, and students (who have the right to make the final post peer review manuscripts of their published articles available to the public in an open access repository).UC campuses also provide open access to theses and dissertations by depositing them in eScholarship(UC’s open access repository and publishing platform) on behalf of their students.
  • Article Processing Charge Support - These are various ways of promoting the UC goal of immediate and open access to publications by UC authors. Initiatives include:
    • Publishing discounts negotiated by the California Digital Library.
    • UCSB Open Access Publishing Fund - Supported and administered by the UCSB Library, the Fund covers the cost of APCs in open access journals so that no UCSB author who desires to publish open access is disadvantaged by the lack of funds to cover relevant fees. 
    • Transformative open access agreements including
      • American Association for the Advancement of Science

      • American Chemical Society

      • Association for Computing Machinery

      • Biochemical Society/Portland Press

      • BioMed Central

      • Cambridge University Press

      • Canadian Science Publishing

      • Company of Biologists

      • Electrochemical Society

      • Elsevier

      • IEEE

      • JMIR Publications

      • Karger

      • National Academy of Sciences

      • Oxford University Press / Nucleic Acids Research

      • PLoS

      • Royal Society

      • Royal Society of Chemistry

      • SAGE

      • SPIE

      • Springer Nature

      • Taylor & Francis

      • University of California Press

      • Wiley

        Note that the terms of tranformative agreements vary widely by publisher. For details, go to the UC Office of Scholarly Communication transformative agreements page, and click on the publisher you are interested in.



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