Open access key terms

Definitions for some key terms relating to open access.


Article Processing Charge (APC)

An article processing charge (APC) is a fee charged by a publisher to the author(s) of a publication, in exchange for making the publication immediately open access on the publisher’s website.

Usually APCs are charged by academic publishers to authors of research papers, though they can also apply to other types of publications.

Charges for monographs are known as book processing charges (BPCs).

Researchers whose work has been funded by UKRI, Wellcome Trust or the British Heart Foundation may be eligible for assistance with paying an APC through block grants administered by the Library.

Article versions

Submitted version

Also known as preprint. The version of an article or chapter that has been submitted to a publication but has not been through peer review.

It may be available online through a preprint server, but is still ‘submitted’ as it has not been accepted for publication by a publisher.

Author accepted manuscript (AAM)

Also known as postprint, final author version, accepted version or author’s final copy (AFC).

The version of an article or chapter that has been accepted for publication. It includes changes made following peer review, but has not been copy-edited or formatted by the publisher.

The AAM is generally in the form of a Word document. If an article was created using a publisher’s template, the AAM may look similar to the published version but should not include the DOI or volume/page numbers.

The AAM is the version that most publishers allow to be deposited in repositories such as White Rose Research Online (WRRO). It is also the version required for submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

Authors must remember to retain this version, as it is not routinely available from publishers after publication.

Version of record (VoR)

Also known as published version, final version.

The final published version, which has been copy-edited and typeset by the publisher. If the VoR is released in ‘early view’ format, it may not include volume/page numbers.

The majority of publishers do not allow this version to be deposited in repositories such as WRRO.

Early view

Also known as online first, ahead of print, advanced access or in press.

Many journals make articles available online before the publication process is complete. A number of terms such as ‘early view’ are used to indicate this. The version made available may be the AAM, corrected proof or VoR without pagination.

When an article has been made available in this way, it is termed as ‘published online’ in WRRO. Only when an article has a volume or article number is it termed as ‘published.’

Digital object identifier (DOI)

A digital object identifier (DOI) is a unique code that identifies a digital object in an actionable and persistent way. This means it allows click to access, and the DOI remains the same even if the location or nature of the object changes.

DOIs are often assigned to journal articles and research datasets, though can be created for any object. The DOI system itself is governed and operated by the International DOI Foundation, though DOIs are created by many registered agencies. 

A DOI is automatically allocated to research data, software, reports and presentations deposited in ORDA.

Embargo periods

While many publishers will allow authors to deposit the accepted version of their publication into a repository, such as White Rose Research Online, they may specify that the full text cannot be made openly available before a specified period of time has elapsed after it is first published.

This is known as an embargo period and can vary from a few months to several years. You can check the embargo periods of different journals using the SHERPA/RoMEO database of publishers' policies.

Gold open access

Authors submit papers to fully open access or hybrid journals which offer free access immediately on publication (ie at the journal’s own website).

Gold open access generally allows authors to retain rights over their work and uses open licences to enable maximum reuse. Authors are often required to pay an article processing charge (APC) to publish via the gold route.

As these fees can vary between several hundred and several thousand pounds, it is more likely that they will be paid by the research funder than the individual author.

Researchers funded by UKRI, Wellcome Trust and BHF may be eligible to have their fees paid through our block grants.

Monographs can also be made open access via the gold route, on payment of a book processing charge. Wellcome will pay for these charges and UKRI will do so from 1 January 2024.

There are also many fully open access journals that do not charge APCs, and a number of open access book publishers who are experimenting with different no-fee models.

These are funded in a range of different ways (for example, through library consortia). This route to open access is also known as ‘diamond’ OA.

Green open access

Authors deposit a version of their publication (usually the author’s accepted manuscript or AAM) in an institutional or subject repository, in parallel with publication in a venue that charges for access.

The work is available via normal channels, while the version in the repository can provide free access, usually after an embargo period.

University of Sheffield authors can deposit their publications into White Rose Research Online (WRRO) via myPublications to achieve green OA (and must do so in many cases to be eligible for the next REF).

The SHERPA/RoMEO database details the open access policies of individual journals and publishers. Sheffield authors should retain the appropriate version of their papers for depositing into WRRO.

Journal types

Subscription-based journals make their articles available to individuals or organisations who pay an annual subscription fee, or pay a one-off charge for a single article.

University libraries often subscribe to journals as part of ‘big deals’, where many journals produced by the same publisher are subscribed to as a package.

Subscription-based journals generally do not charge authors for publication, although some do.

Hybrid journals are a type of subscription-based journal that allows for individual articles to be made open access on the payment of an article processing charge (APC).

Many major subscription-based journals now offer this option.

Open access journals make all their articles freely available online, and often use open licences such as CC BY to allow maximum reuse of the work.

Some open access journals require payment of article processing charges, while some do not as their funding comes from other sources.

Journals that charge APCs are called ‘gold’ journals and those that don’t are sometimes referred to as ‘diamond’ or ‘platinum.’ A list of OA journals can be found in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Open licensing

Open licences allow others to make use of a copyrighted work as long as they follow the conditions of the licence.

The suite of Creative Commons open licences are commonly used in academic publishing, the most permissive being CC BY, which allows others to ‘distribute, remix, tweak and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation’.

Some funders such as UKRI and Wellcome stipulate that a CC BY licence must be used (in most cases) if they pay for gold open access.

View our short video about Creative Commons licences here.


ORCiD provides researchers with a persistent and unique identifier which distinguishes them from other researchers and makes sure their work is identifiable.

You can add your ORCiD to myPublications which will enable the system to find your work from across the web.

Page and colour charges

Some subscription-based journals charge authors to publish with them without making the article open access. Instead, they charge per page, or to cover the cost of colour printing. 

These extra charges can be called ‘page charges’, ‘colour charges’ or ‘publication charges'.

From April 1 2022, you will not be able to use the UKRI block grant to cover these charges. Wellcome will also not cover them.

Plan S

Plan S was launched in September 2018 by a coalition of European funders (cOAlition S) and aims to accelerate the transition to Open Access for the research that they fund.

The core principle of Plan S is that from January 2021, all scholarly articles resulting from research funded by the signatories, must be open access immediately on publication.

Funders such as UKRIWellcome and NIHR have aligned their open access policies with the Plan S principles, requiring articles to be made immediately open access.

Repository types

Institutional repositories (IRs) archive and make accessible digital research outputs produced by one or more institutions. 

The IR for the University of Sheffield is White Rose Research Online (WRRO). It is operated through the White Rose Consortium with the Universities of Leeds and York.

WRRO contains a variety of materials such as peer-reviewed articles, preprints, technical reports and conference presentations. 

There is also a repository for theses (WREO) and one for research data (ORDA).

Subject-based repositories focus on outputs from specific domains.

Examples of these include arXiv (maths, physics, and other scientific disciplines), Social Science Research Network (social sciences), and CogPrints (psychology, computer science, and other cognition-related disciplines).

The OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories) is a searchable database of repositories around the world.

Rights retention statement

A rights retention statement (RRS) on a submitted manuscript should allow authors to retain rights over their work and share the Author Accepted Manuscript via a repository without following conditions set by the publisher.

Funders such as UKRI, Wellcome Trust and NIHR require the inclusion of a RRS in the acknowledgement section of submitted articles, so that authors can comply with their open access policies.

The RRS required by UKRI is: “For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising”.

The RRS required by Wellcome is: “This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission”.

Transitional agreements

Transitional agreements (also referred to as transformative agreements or ‘read and publish’ deals) are contracts negotiated between institutions or consortia and publishers in order to move towards a business model which means payment is made to publish in, rather than to read scholarly journals.

In the UK, JISC negotiates transitional agreements on our behalf. There are slight differences between agreements, but they generally mean that corresponding authors from an affiliated institution are eligible to make their articles open access at no cost to themselves.

Transformative journals

Transformative journals are subscription journals which have actively committed to open access by meeting certain criteria and are therefore eligible for funding through block grants provided by Plan S aligned funders such Wellcome Trust and UKRI.

Criteria for what makes a journal transformative may differ by funder. See further guidance for UKRI and Wellcome funded authors for more information.

UKRI and Wellcome Trust block grants

The research councils that make up UKRI (EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, STFC, NERC, ESRC, AHRC), and Wellcome Trust, require their funded published outputs to be made open access within set time limits.

The UKRI and Wellcome open access policies provide more information on these conditions.

Some journal publishers charge authors fees in order to make research papers available in open access form.

UKRI and Wellcome provide block grants to ensure the researchers they support have access to the funds needed to pay these article processing charges (APCs).

At the University of Sheffield, the Library administers these grants.

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