Open access: frequently asked questions
Here we cover the questions most commonly asked about open access at UCL.
If you can't find the answer you need, contact the Open Access Team.
- About open access
- REF open access policy
- Exceptions to the REF policy
- UCL Discovery and RPS
- Open access funds
- What is open access?
Open access means making research publications freely available online. There are no payment restrictions on open access publications, so everyone can read them.
There are two types of open access, Gold and Green. See our Open access basics page for more.
- What is UCL's open access policy?
UCL's policy is that the accepted manuscript of all outputs must be uploaded to UCL’s Research Publications Service (RPS). Manuscripts will be made open access through UCL Discovery, UCL’s institutional repository, according to the publisher’s copyright permissions (usually after a delay period).
- Does my funder have an open access policy?
- What is the policy?
To be eligible for submission to the next REF, journal articles and conference proceedings accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 must have been deposited in an open access repository. At UCL, researchers must upload their papers to UCL’s Research Publications Service (RPS).
- It is best practice to upload your paper to RPS as soon as it is accepted for publication. Outputs not uploaded within 3 months of first online publication cannot be submitted to the REF. Since we do not yet know how the next REF will be conducted, or which papers will be submitted, and since the policy encourages open access for all outputs, every paper should be uploaded.
- The version to upload is the final accepted manuscript (after peer-review, but before the publisher’s typesetting).
- The Open Access Team will make your paper open access through UCL Discovery, UCL's institutional repository, according to the publisher’s copyright permissions (usually after a delay period). If it cannot be made open access, the output will fall under an exception in the REF policy, and can still be submitted to the REF.
- What does the policy cover?
The REF policy applies to journal articles and conference proceedings. This includes papers presented at a conference, or part of a conference proceedings, but does not include abstracts and posters. If RPS wrongly identifies an abstract as a conference proceeding, you can change the output type. At the top of the full record in RPS, next to the output type, you will see a small pencil icon. Click on it, and you will be able to select "conference presentation" or "poster" instead.
Letters and editorials sometimes contain original research, and some disciplines submit them to the REF. In general, the accepted manuscript version of letters and editorials should be uploaded to RPS.
UCL’s policy is that outputs of all types should be uploaded to UCL’s Research Publications Service (RPS). Extra REF credit is available for depositing outputs outside the scope of the REF policy, like books and book chapters.
- When should I upload?
In its original form, the REF policy required papers to be uploaded within three months of being accepted for publication. The deadline has been extended, and articles and conference proceedings accepted after 1 April 2016 need to be deposited in an open access repository within three months of first online publication.
In some disciplines, UCL’s Research Publications Service (RPS) finds records of papers in databases like Scopus and Web of Science, based on your RPS search settings, and offers them to you to "claim". You should not wait to receive these notifications, as they might well appear after the deadline for uploading the paper to RPS.
It is best practice to upload your accepted manuscript to RPS as soon as your work is accepted for publication. We recommend that you create a simple record in RPS at acceptance, and attach your accepted manuscript to it. If RPS later finds a full record in a database, that record should be merged with your basic one.
- Can I wait to upload until I get an email asking me to claim my paper in RPS?
In some disciplines, RPS finds records of papers in databases like Scopus and Web of Science, based on your RPS search settings, and offers them to you to "claim". You should not wait to receive these notifications, as they might well appear after the deadline for uploading the paper to RPS, which is 3 months from the date of first online publication.
We recommend that you create a simple record in RPS as soon as your paper is accepted for publication, and attach your accepted manuscript to it. If RPS later finds a full record in a database, that record should be merged with your basic one.
- Which version should I upload?
You should upload your final accepted manuscript. This may be alternatively referred to as the "final author version", "final manuscript" or "post-print". It is the version of your work which:
- has been accepted for publication
- has been peer-reviewed
- but has not yet had the publisher's layout and typesetting applied
Most publishers allow this version to be made open access after an embargo (delay) period (see our open access basics page for more information). The final published PDF (the final version that appears on the publisher's website) cannot usually be made open access in a repository, unless Gold open access fees have been paid.
- What if I don't have the final accepted manuscript?
You need to ask the corresponding author or your co-authors for the final accepted manuscript so that you can upload it. Alternatively, the journal may be able to provide you with a copy that you can use. If you don't succeed, contact the Open Access Team.
When asking non-UK authors for the final accepted manuscript you can use the following explanation:
The UK's Higher Education Funding Council for England requires UK authors to deposit the final accepted manuscript in their institutional repository. The manuscript, which is version of the article that was peer-reviewed but without publisher's typesetting, will be made open access after the delay period, according to the publisher's policy. Meeting this requirement has a significant impact on future funding.
- Can I include changes made in copy-editing?
The REF policy requires authors to upload their accepted manuscript, after peer-review but before publisher copy-editing and typesetting.
While the accepted manuscript contains all changes arising from peer-review, it does not usually contain changes made during copy-editing and typesetting. If you would prefer to upload a version that contains these changes, you can either copy them into the accepted manuscript, or ask the publisher for later version that can be made open access.
- Whose responsibility is it to upload?
It is every author's responsibility to make sure that the final accepted manuscript is uploaded to RPS. Where a paper is co-authored by several UCL researchers, only one of them needs to upload the paper to RPS. If a paper involves authors at more than one UK institution, the accepted manuscript must be uploaded to each institution’s repository.
- Can someone else upload my paper for me?
Although it is each author's responsibility to maintain their publications records in RPS, authors can delegate access to someone else with an RPS account - an administrator or PA, for instance. Delegates can manage publication records and add files to them, though the author must provide the final accepted manuscript.
To set up a delegate, in RPS go to Menu, then in the My Account section go to Account Settings>Manage Delegates.
- I am a new member of staff. Do I need to upload my old papers?
New members of staff should upload the final accepted manuscript of all journal articles and conference papers that were accepted for publication after 1 April 2016. If you have previously uploaded your paper's to another institution's repository, please provide the Open Access Team with the details.
- If I won't be at UCL during the next REF do I still have to upload?
Yes. It is important that all papers that fall under the policy are uploaded, so that they are eligible for submission - regardless of where the authors are based at the time of the next REF.
- Do Post-Doctoral Research Assistants/honorary staff need to upload?
PDRAs do need to upload their papers. It is not yet clear how the next REF will be conducted. It is important that all papers that fall under the policy are uploaded, so that they are eligible for submission - regardless of where the authors are based at the time of the next REF.
For the same reason, we recommend that honorary members of staff upload their publications.
- Do I risk breaching my publisher's copyright conditions?
No. Uploading your paper to RPS does not make it openly available.
Publishers normally impose a delay on making papers open access (this is set out in the terms and conditions you agree to when you publish). After you upload your paper to RPS, the Open Access Team will check the publisher’s terms and conditions, and apply the relevant delay (embargo) period. The citation will appear in UCL Discovery, but the file itself will only be made open access after the embargo period.
- Does the REF policy affect where I can publish?
The REF policy does not restrict authors' academic freedom to choose the most appropriate journal for their output.
Most journals are compliant with the REF policy. Where a journal does not allow open access within 12 months (REF panels A and B) or 24 months (REF panels C and D), or doesn't offer open access at all, the author is encouraged to consider publishing in an alternative journal. If the author still wishes to publish in the journal, and considers that it is the most appropriate publication for the work, an exception to the policy applies. The accepted manuscript should still be uploaded to RPS within 3 months of first online publication. The Open Access Team will apply the exception automatically.
- If my paper is (or will be) published open access, should I still upload it?
If your paper is published as Gold open access - i.e. open access on the publisher's website - under a licence that permits copying and reuse, you do not need to upload it to RPS. The paper falls under an exception for Gold open access in the REF policy.
Most open access papers are published under a Creative Commons (CC) licence, which meets these requirements. If your paper is open access, but does not have a Creative Commons (CC) licence, you should upload the final accepted manuscript to RPS within 3 months of first online publication.
Accepted manuscripts deposited in other repositories (e.g. Europe PubMed Central, or another institution’s repository), either by authors or publishers, need to be uploaded to RPS as well.
- Does putting my paper in arXiv, SSRN, ResearchGate or another repository comply?
Unless your paper is published with Gold open access, the accepted manuscript needs to be uploaded to RPS, even if the paper will also be made available through a subject repository like arXiv, bioRxiv, SSRN or Europe PubMed Central. This is because UCL needs to demonstrate that the accepted manuscript was uploaded within 3 months of first online publication, and subject repositories do not record the information needed to do so (especially the version that was uploaded).
If your funder requires open access in Europe PubMed Central, and your paper is not Gold open access, you will need to upload your manuscript both to Europe PubMed Central and to RPS.
Sites like ResearchGate and Academia.edu are social networking sites with commercial business models. They do not ensure long-term access to deposited publications. Uploading to these sites does not satisfy the requirements of the REF open access policy.
- My paper is "free", or shows an open padlock. Do I still have to upload it?
Publishers often make papers freely available for a limited period of time. This is not the same as Gold open access, which means that the paper will be openly available in perpetuity on the publisher's website, with a licence that permits copying and reuse. Where a paper is labelled "free" or "free to view", the accepted manuscript still needs to be uploaded to RPS.
An open padlock on the publisher's website does not denote open access. Often this is just an indication that the content has been made available through a UCL subscription.
- Why do I need to upload other outputs, like book chapters, that aren't covered by the REF policy?
UCL’s policy is that all outputs should be uploaded to RPS and made openly available in UCL Discovery where copyright conditions allow. Extra REF credit is available for uploading outputs outside the scope of the REF policy. Making your work open access through UCL Discovery will lead to increased citations and greater visibility for your research.
- Can papers under embargo at the time of the REF still be submitted?
Yes, provided that your final accepted manuscript was uploaded to RPS within 3 months of first online publication. It will comply with the REF policy, even if the publisher's embargo period means that it is not open access at the time of the REF submission.
- Which version of publications will be assessed by the REF?
The version that needs to be uploaded to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS) is the final accepted manuscript. However, it is HEFCE's current intention that REF panels will assess published versions of record, not accepted manuscripts, in the next REF.
- The journal's embargo is too long, or the journal does not allow open access
If the journal's embargo period is longer than 12 months (REF panels A and B) or 24 months (REF panels C and D), or the journal does not allow open access at all, your paper will still be eligible for the REF provided you consider the journal the most appropriate publication for the work. Before submission, consider whether there are any suitable alternative publications.
After your paper is accepted for publication, upload your manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS) as usual. It will be made open access after the embargo period, where this is permitted.
- Open access rights cannot be granted for third-party content
If your paper contains third-party content for which open access rights cannot be granted you have the option to upload the text on its own.
However, HEFCE recognises that the third-party content may be essential to the publication, and allows an exception in these circumstances.
- I cannot obtain my peer-reviewed manuscript
If you cannot obtain your final manuscript (perhaps because you are not the corresponding author), this exception applies, and your paper is still eligible for the REF. Inform the Open Access Team. If you are not the corresponding author, you should make all reasonable efforts to get hold of the manuscript from the corresponding author, or from your other co-authors.
- I was not at a UK university when the paper was submitted
- Gold open access is being arranged for the paper
If the paper is being made Gold open access with a licence that allows copying and reuse, then you do not need to upload your final manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS). The Open Access Team will make the final published version open access through UCL Discovery after publication.
If your paper is open access, but does not have a Creative Commons (CC) licence, you should upload the final accepted manuscript to RPS within 3 months of first online publication.
- It would be unlawful to deposit the paper / depositing the paper would present a security risk
Where there are legal barriers to making a manuscript open access through a repository, or the author's identity needs to be protected (so that depositing the paper would put the author or the institution at risk), these exceptions can be used. Inform the Open Access Team that it applies.
- Other reason not covered by the exceptions above
Very exceptionally, it may be possible to submit non-compliant papers to the REF even though they do not fall within any of the other exceptions. Contact the Open Access Team for advice.
- What is UCL Discovery?
UCL Discovery is UCL's open access repository, showcasing and providing access to UCL research publications.
To meet the requirements of the REF open access policy, UCL’s publications policy and UCL’s policy on thesis deposit, all outputs should be deposited in an open access repository. At UCL, researchers must upload their papers to UCL’s Research Publications Service (RPS).
It is best practice to upload your paper to RPS as soon as it is accepted for publication. Journal articles and conference proceedings not uploaded within 3 months of first online publication cannot be submitted to the REF.
- What is RPS?
Research Publications Service (RPS) is UCL's publication management system. Researchers’ publication details are imported or entered manually into author profiles in RPS. They are then transferred to UCL Discovery and IRIS.
- What types of research can be made available in UCL Discovery?
All types of publication can be uploaded. UCL's open access policy applies to all outputs, including books and book chapters. You can also upload past publications from UCL and other institutions, as well as outputs from conferences, workshops and meetings held at UCL or organised by UCL researchers.
UCL Discovery accepts small scale datasets associated with publications. Depending on the type of data you need to store, other UCL services may be more appropriate.
Contact the Open Access Team for more information.
- How do I upload my publications?
If your "manuscript" is a collection of files, you don't have to create a single PDF. You can upload all the relevant files separately, or as a zip file.
- Can I create an accepted manuscript using the published PDF?
No. This contravenes copyright law and is illegal. Library staff will check versions after they are uploaded. The version that is uploaded must be the author's final accepted manuscript.
- I have uploaded my publication. What will happen next?
After you upload a publication to RPS, the Open Access Team checks the copyright and publisher permissions, then makes the details of the publication available in UCL Discovery.
Most publishers permit authors to make their manuscripts open access in repositories, but they often impose an embargo (6-24 months). The Open Access team will apply any embargo period, and the accepted manuscript will be made open access after the publisher's delay period.
- Can duplicate RPS records be merged?
If you create a basic record for a paper when it is accepted (see our guide on how to Record a publication to your RPS profile), and a full record is later imported into RPS from an external database like Scopus or Web of Science, the two records should be merged. If this does not happen, contact the Open Access Team and we will merge the duplicate records for you.
- What am I allowed to do with publications in UCL Discovery?
The copyright owner, usually the publisher or the author, holds the copyright of publications in UCL Discovery.
You may download and print a single copy of any item (and its associated media) held in UCL Discovery for your personal, non-commercial use without prior permission or charge, provided that you correctly refer to the paper. Some records indicate that the item is licensed under a Creative Commons or other licence that permits wider re-use. Please refer to the terms of the licence for specific details.
Further use of any items from UCL Discovery may infringe copyright. If the material is required for any other purpose, you should contact the author or publisher directly.
- How do I cite research found in UCL Discovery?
Cite the publication as it appears at the top of the UCL Discovery record, then indicate that it is available in UCL Discovery.
Card, D., Dustmann, C., & Preston, I. (2009). Immigration, wages, and compositional amenities. CReAM Discussion Papers (CDP 29/09). Centre for the Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), London, UK. Available at http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/18906/
To find the correct page numbers, consult the original version of the publication on the publisher’s website.
- Can I get publication lists and download statistics?
Publication lists can be exported from RPS and embedded in other webpages. The lists are created chronologically, based on the reporting date available in RPS. If the date is incorrect or missing you can update it by adding publication date in the manual record for the publication.
UCL Discovery shows download statistics by publication, measured by country, month and year. Contact the Open Access Team for more information.
- Can UCL pay my Gold open access costs?
Seven medical funders, including the Wellcome Trust, provide UCL with central funding to pay authors' Gold fees. The UK Research Councils also fund open access charges for a proportion of research papers, through a central UCL grant.
Other UCL authors may request funding from UCL's own open access fund. UCL encourages Green open access, but limited Gold funds are available for UCL corresponding authors who are full (not honorary or visiting) UCL staff or research students. At UCL, the average cost of Gold open access is £1500 per paper.
The terms under which the UCL fund may be used are as follows.
- The corresponding author must be a full UCL member of staff or research student
- Honorary members of staff are not eligible
- The publisher must allow UCL to deposit the published PDF in UCL Discovery
- Funds must be available at the time of the request
To request funding for Gold open access, or for more information, complete this form and we'll reply with a summary of your options.
- Can UCL pay to make older papers open access?
- When is the best time to contact you about open access?
It’s usually best to contact us as soon as your publication is accepted for publication – remember that this is the best time to upload your manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS), making it eligible for submission to the next REF. If you would like to choose Gold open access, we can follow up on your correspondence with the publisher.
To check that your publisher complies with the REF policy, or your funder’s policy, contact us before you submit.
- What are UCL’s publisher membership schemes?
UCL has prepayment or membership schemes with a number of large publishers. We deposit a lump sum with the publisher, who takes payment from these funds when a UCL author chooses Gold open access. UCL receives a discount, and payment is very straightforward.
To find out more, visit our Publisher schemes page.
If UCL does not have a membership scheme with your publisher, and we are able to pay Gold charges for your publication, we will pay by invoice.
- Do I need a code to use the publisher membership schemes? Where are they kept?
- You don't have a membership scheme with my publisher. Can you still pay my Gold open access fee?
Limited funds are available for other UCL corresponding authors who are full members of staff or students where the funder does not cover open access charges.
If UCL does not have a membership scheme with your publisher, but we are able to cover the open access charges, we will pay by invoice.
- Is my publisher’s Gold open access option acceptable?
Some funders, including the Research Councils (RCUK) and the Wellcome Trust, require the CC BY licence for Gold open access. For unfunded publications, the publisher must at least allow UCL to make the published PDF available through UCL Discovery, UCL's open access repository. The CC BY licence is preferred.
To request funding for Gold open access, or for more information, complete this form and we'll reply with a summary of your options.
- How can I be sure that an open access publisher is genuine/ethical/not a 'predatory publisher'?
A small minority of publishers are accused of exploiting the Gold open access model. Predatory, fraudulent or vanity publishers produce journals with little or no academic credibility, for financial gain only. Their peer-review process is either non-existent, or lacking in rigour. They charge authors a full open access article processing fee, around £1,500 per article (the sort of fee charged by reputable high-quality peer-reviewed journals for open access).
OMICS Group is an example of a predatory publisher.
Predatory publishers will often spam authors in order to solicit submissions, and may fail to explain clearly the fees they charge. Some of these publishers mimic the webpages of legitimate publishers, and the differences can be difficult to spot at first (although they will be apparent on closer inspection).
Although the vast majority of open access publishers are credible, and the choice of where to publish is entirely at authors’ discretion, UCL will not be able to cover author fees for articles in journals of this type (including OMICS Group journals). We can advise if a journal or publisher is legitimate. You might like to contact us if you are considering submitting to:
- an open access publisher or journal that is unknown to you, especially if their correspondence contains spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or typos
- a fully open access journal that is not listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals
You might also find the Think, Check, Submit service useful. We can provide further examples of predatory publishers and their correspondence on request.
We can provide further examples of predatory publishers and their correspondence on request.
- Can UCL pay publication fees, including page and colour charges?
UCL's open access funds generally only cover open access payments. This includes Article Processing Charges from subscription journals, where the author chooses Gold open access, and "publication fees" from fully open access journals (eg. BioMed Central and PLOS).
In most cases, UCL cannot pay non-open access publication charges (eg. page and colour fees). There is one exception. If the research was funded by one of the UK Research Councils (RCUK), UCL can pay all publication fees from our RCUK grant. RCUK no longer allows authors to pay these costs from their own grants. Contact us to arrange payment by invoice.
- How do I arrange payment?
To request funding for Gold open access, complete this form and we'll reply with a summary of your options.
- Can I pay on a credit card and claim the funds back?
If payment has to be made swiftly to avoid publication delays, you can pay on a credit card and ask us to reimburse you. Before doing so, it is advisable to contact us to make sure that the journal complies with any funder requirements, and that funds are available. Otherwise, it is normally easier if we pay directly.
- How long does payment take?
If UCL has a membership scheme, payment is immediate. If we are paying by invoice, UCL Accounts Payable should transfer the funds by the invoice due date - normally 30 days after the date of the invoice.
If payment has to be made swiftly to avoid publication delays, you can pay on a credit card and ask us to reimburse you. Before doing so, it is advisable to contact us to make sure that funds are available.
- What should I do if I receive an invoice reminder?
Send it to us, and we'll investigate.
- If you have paid for Gold open access, do I need to check that my paper is made open access after payment?
No - the Open Access Team will check for you. We will also deposit the published PDF in UCL Discovery. If your funder requires you to deposit in a subject repository (eg. Europe PubMed Central), you will need to check that the publisher has done this for you.
- What are UCL's guidelines on open access to research data?
Visit UCL's Research Data Services website to view UCL's policy on Research Data.
- Where can I get information on copyright at UCL?
Visit the Library’s Copyright advice page for help.