Information Services

Copyright and Open Access

Open Access, as the name suggests, means that items of scholarly research are made available online, in a digital format, at no charge to the reader and with limited restrictions on re-use. Most importantly, works that are made available Open Access are still protected by copyright.


At the end of the 20th century, university librarians around the world found themselves in the middle of  the “serials crisis.” This was the result of subscription costs for publications rising much faster than inflation for many years so libraries simply could not afford subscriptions to all the publications they wanted and were forced to make difficult choices between journals.

Around this time, the internet was really coming into its own. Suddenly, through the world wide web, anyone with an internet connection could publish information and get it out to the public almost for free. 

The development was two-fold: first came the archives like, which encouraged scientists to self-archive their pre-publication articles into an online repository. In 2000, National Institute for Health released PubMed Central, an open access repository and BioMed Central, an open access publisher. 2003 saw the launch of the Public Library of Science, which produces some of the most competitive open access journals today. In 2005, the Wellcome Trust began demanding that the recipients of its grants deposit a copy of their articles with PubMed Central.

Then, the policy – as usual, trying to catch-up with technology: in the early 2000's the academic community got together and drafted the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access, which fleshed out the definition of open access and acted as calls to action, gathering a combined total of almost 500 institutional signatures.

Today the push for Open Access is driven by the funders' requirements that research funded from public money should be made available open access. The University of Edinburgh supports its staff in making their research Open Access.

Open Access models

'Green' Open Access or Self-archiving

There are several ways you can make your research outputs open. The author, or someone else on their behalf, may deposit an early version (ideally the author accepted manuscript) of a journal article on their personal webpage, school webpage or in an open access digital archive - otherwise known as a repository. The repositories are a mechanism for managing and storing digital content. 

Repositories can be subject or institutional in their focus. Putting content into an institutional repository enables staff and institutions to manage and preserve it, and therefore derive maximum value from it.

Pure is the University's Current Research Information System (CRIS). Information held in Pure relates to research staff and their publications, projects and activities information. Pure allows for relationships and associations to be created between research inputs and outputs, providing a broad picture of research activity at the individual, research unit, School, College, and University levels.

Click here for more information on Pure 

'Gold' Open Access or Open Access Journals

Open Access Journals make their articles available for free through charging for the publication services before publication, rather than after publication through subscriptions. The publisher of the journal will make all articles and related content available for free on the journal's website. Variations on open access journal models include:

  • Open access journal funded by article processing charges (APCs) paid by authors or research sponsors
  • Open access journal funded by an academic institution, learned society or from the government - no publication fees are paid by authors.
  • Delayed open-access journals are traditional subscription-based journals that provide free online access upon the expiry of an embargo period following the initial publication date.

Open Access publication charges can be often included within the costs of research funding, so the money for access comes through the research funder, rather than through the library budget. Of course, the initial source of the money is often the same (from government funding), but the economics of this model means that the overall cost should be lower. Peer-review is unaffected and is carried out in the same way.

There are a growing number of Open Access Journals, with at least one journal available in most disciplines. A list of the ones currently available is provided by the Directory of Open Access Journals.

'Hybrid' Open Access

Some commercial publishers like Elsevier, Oxford University Press, Blackwell, Springer and the Royal Society are now experimenting with hybrid journals, where the yearly subscription is still charged for accessing the previous issues of the journals (the online archive) and for an additional payment - typically around £1500 (+VAT) each - an article can then be made freely available.


Further Resources

Pure - the University of Edinburgh's Current Research Information System (CRIS)

RoMEO - Publisher's copyright & archiving policies

JULIET - Research funders archiving mandates and guidelines

OpenDOAR - worldwide Directory of Open Access Repositories

SHERPA Search - simple full-text search of UK repositories



Scholarly Communications Team

Contact details



Information Services
Floor F East, Argyle House
3 Lady Lawson Street

Post Code


  • You can book a one-to one video consultation with an expert from our team. If you want to find out more about open access (journals, funding, policies etc ), Copyright & Intellectual Property, General publishing activities (request an ISBN or DOI), or research metrics (using Web Of Science or Scopus) please contact our team via email to book a session at a time that suits you.


This material is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. For further information please contact: