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FAQ on Open Access and Glossary

What is Open Access?

Open access (OA) refers to making research and scholarly literature freely accessible on the internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search or link to the full texts. Users, however, must respect the authors’ right in controlling the integrity of their work and being properly acknowledged and cited (shortened version of the definition used in the Budapest Open Access Initiatives Declaration).

Open access has already become a global trend. Many universities, research institutes and funding bodies have introduced their open access mandates or policies to require or recommend their faculty and researchers to make their scholarly outputs available for open access. This is for the purpose of sharing the fruits of research and scholarship as widely as possible. ROARMAP (Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies) is a voluntary self-registering service for OA mandates.


How can I make my research outputs open access?

You can make your research papers open access through the following ways:

1. OA Repository (Green Route) - Self-archiving a copy of your research outputs into the OA repositories
  • OA repositories are either institutional repositories (IR) set up by universities to house their staff publications or discipline based repositories established for scholars in a particular discipline to archive their works. OpenDOAR provides a worldwide directory of OA repositories. Most publishers allow some forms of self-archiving. Check the publishers' copyright and self-archiving policies for details. The copyright transfer agreement (CTA) or the publisher's agreement that an author signs as a condition of publication in a journal also states whether self-archiving is allowed and in what form.

  • At CityU, the Scholarly Repository developed and maintained by the Library serves this purpose.

2. OA Journals (Gold Route) - Publishing the research papers in OA journals
3. Paid OA Option / Hybrid OA Journals (Hybrid Model) - Publishing the research papers in Hybrid OA journals
  • Some publishers of subscription-based journals (journals that collect subscription fees) offer the hybrid OA options whereby the authors pay a fee, also called the "article processing charge", to make a particular article open access. This hybrid mode makes an article OA, not the journal itself. These publishers are usually "double dipping" because they receive fees paid by the subscribers (e.g. university libraries) and also the article processing fees from the authors. Publishers often use different names to call their hybrid options, such as Springer Open Choice, Elsevier Open Access Articles and Oxford Open. SHERPA/RoMEO provides a list of publishers with these hybrid options and their names.


Which publishers allow self-archiving in OA repositories?

SHERPA/RoMEO publisher policy index provides information on the copyright and self-archiving policies of publishers. Most publishers allow some form of self-archiving which include depositing the pre-print, post-print or even the published version of the papers with or without an embargo period in the OA repositories.


What are the pre-print, post-print and published version of a paper?

Pre-print refers to the first manuscript (usually in word processing format) that an author submits to a journal for consideration and this draft has not gone through the peer-review process yet.

Post-print refers to the final accepted peer-reviewed manuscript prepared by the author (usually in word processing format) that contains all the revisions made during the peer-review process. The proofs and offprints from the publishers are not post-prints.

Published version refers to the final version of the paper that reflect the layout, formatting and done by the publisher for the purpose of publication either in hardcopy format or electronic formats.


Copyright transfer document (CTA) or a publisher's agreement - What is it?

The copyright transfer agreement (CTA) or the publisher's agreement is a legal document that states the condition of publication which can be a full or partial copyright transfer or a license to publish. The author who creates the work is the copyright holder. Copyright is a bundle of rights. If the CTA does not specify what rights the author can retain, the author may have transferred the whole copyright of his or her work to the publisher and thus will need to seek the publisher's permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in the copyright law.

SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) recommends authors to submit their articles together with the author addendum which is a legal instrument that modifies the publisher's agreement to enable the authors to retain their rights to their articles.


Embargo period - What is it?

An embargo period delays the open access to an article or a journal so that the full texts will be openly accessible only upon the lapse of a period of time following the publication date. Users must pay for the access either through the subscription model or other methods of payment during the embargo period for which the length varies depending on the policies of the publishers. OA journals usually do not impose any embargo period.


What do I need to pay attention to when choosing an OA Journal?

How open is an OA Journal? When you choose an OA journal, you may want to know how open it is in order to make your choice. The “Open Access Spectrum (OAS) Guide” (English PDF or Chinese PDF) devised by SPARC [Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition]PLOS [Public Library of Science] and OASPA [Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association] lists the components that define OA journals.  It is a useful guide that helps authors to assess how open a journal is along the spectrum of closed access to open access.

Is the publisher a possible predatory publisher? "Predatory publisher" is a term originated from Jeffrey Beall who compiled the Beall’s list that provides a list of scholarly OA journal publishers that may not be up to the expected standard according to a set of criteria. In his article "Who's Afraid of Peer Review", Dr. John Bohannon recounts his experience of submitting fake scientific papers to selected OA journal publishers listed in DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) and the Beall’s list. More than half of the selected publishers accepted his fake papers. The results did raise concerns on the quality of the editorial practices of some scholarly OA journal publishers. Bohannon's investigation, however, did not include a comparative control group of subscription-based journals and therefore may not necessarily reflect the entire picture and there are some other limitations too as commented by SPARC [Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition] and OASPA (Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association). However, the study has sparked the need for a closer scrutiny on the peer review process of journal publishing.


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