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Open access: frequently asked questions

Below are the questions academics most often ask about open access, the REF open access policy, RPS and UCL Discovery.

If you can't find the answer you need, contact the Open Access Team.


About open access

What is open access?

Open access means making research publications freely available online, without payment restrictions, and with few restrictions on re-use. 

There are two types of open access. Green open access means making a version of your work, usually your final accepted manuscript, openly available in an institutional repository such as UCL Discovery or a discipline-specific repository such as Europe PubMed Central, subject to any publisher embargo period on open access. Gold open access means making the published version of your work open access on the publisher's website, as soon as it is published, usually under a Creative Commons licence. Gold open access often requires a fee, known as an Article Processing Charge (APC) or Book Processing Charge (BPC). 

What is UCL's open access policy?

UCL encourages Green open access where outputs are published in subscription journals or under a traditional book publishing model. Authors must upload the final accepted manuscript of all outputs to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS). The Open Access Team will make the manuscript open access in UCL Discovery, UCL's institutional repository, according to the publisher's copyright permissions (usually after an embargo period on open access). 

Limited funds are available for Gold open access. 

Does my funder have an open access policy?

Most research funders require grant-holders to make their publications open access. See our funders page for more information. Contact the Open Access Team for specific advice. 

REF 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 the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?) cannot be submitted to the REF. 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 in UCL Discovery, UCL's institutional repository, according to the publisher's copyright permissions (usually after an embargo period on open access). See also Exceptions to the REF policy: The journal's embargo period is too long / the journal does not allow open access. 
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. 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 UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS).

If RPS identifies an abstract as a conference paper, 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 abstract" or "poster" instead.

UCL's policy is that outputs of all types should be uploaded to RPS. The REF open access policy encourages authors to make outputs such as books and book chapters openly available. Units of Assessment can demonstrate their wider commitment to open access in their REF Environment statements. 

When should I upload to RPS?

Papers should be deposited as soon after acceptance as possible. Papers accepted for publication from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018 will be eligible for submission to the REF if they were deposited in an open access repository within three months of first online publication. Papers accepted after this date must be deposited in an open access repository within three months of acceptance. However, an exception applies for outputs accepted after 1 April 2018 that were deposited within three months of first online publication but not within three months of acceptance. 

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 make sure that your papers are recorded in RPS in time to meet the deadline for you to upload the final accepted manuscript. You can do this either by claiming these records within the three-month period, or by creating records manually (see our guide to recording a publication in your RPS profile). 

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".

Full details are available on our which version to upload page.

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 have not been able to obtain the final accepted manuscript, contact the Open Access Team.

When asking non-UK authors for the final accepted manuscript you can use the following explanation:

UK research funders require UK authors to deposit their final accepted manuscripts 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 in UCL Discovery after the embargo period on open access, 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 final 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 a later version that can be made open access.

Whose responsibility is it to upload?

It is every UCL 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.

If your paper was uploaded to another institution's repository or a subject repository, but not to RPS, within the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?), it may be possible to demonstrate that it complies with the REF policy. Contact the Open Access Team, providing the URL of the paper in the other repository, to discuss this.

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 upload 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.

Where a paper is co-authored by several UCL researchers, only one of them needs to upload the paper to RPS.

I am a new member of staff. Do I need to upload my old papers?

No. Papers qualify for an exception from the REF open access requirement, and are eligible for submission to the REF, where:

  • when the paper was accepted, the author to whom the paper is attributed in the REF submission was employed at a UK HEI other than UCL, and it is not possible to determine (from any other repository) that it complies with the policy.
  • when the paper was submitted, the author to whom the paper is attributed in the REF submission was not employed at a UK HEI.
If I won't be at UCL at the time of 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 should upload their papers, yes. This will ensure that these outputs are eligible for REF submission, regardless of where the author is based at the time of the next REF. Aside from this, the REF policy encourages open access for all outputs, and uploading papers allows authors to take advantage of the benefits of making their research freely available, including increased citations and downloads. Units of Assessment can demonstrate their wider commitment to open access in their REF Environment statements. 

For the same reasons, we recommend that honorary members of staff upload their publications.

Do I risk breaching my publisher's copyright conditions?

No. Uploading your accepted manuscript to RPS does not make it openly available automatically. After you upload, the Open Access Team will check the file and apply the relevant open access embargo period.

Publishers normally impose an embargo (delay) on making papers open access (this is set out in the terms and conditions/copyright transfer agreement you agree to when you publish), except where a fee is paid for Gold open access. The citation and abstract will appear in UCL Discovery after the Open Access Team has processed the file, but the accepted manuscript itself will only be made open access after the embargo period.

If you are uploading before publication, you can contact the Open Access Team to request that the citation and abstract are not made public until after publication - though publishers do not normally consider that making this information available in an open access repository breaches any publication embargo. 

Does the REF policy affect where I can publish?

The REF open access policy does not restrict authors' choice of the most appropriate journal for their output.

Most journals are compliant with the policy. Where a journal does not comply, because it does not allow open access in a repository within 12 months (REF panels A and B) or 24 months (REF panels C and D) of publication, or doesn't allow open access in a repository at all, the author is encouraged to consider publishing in an alternative journal. If the author still wishes to publish in the chosen 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 the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?).

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 - as soon as it is published, under a licence that permits copying and reuse, you do not need to upload it to RPS. The paper complies with the REF policy. Most Gold 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 the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?).

Accepted manuscripts deposited in other repositories (e.g. Europe PubMed Central or another institution's repository), either by authors or publishers, should be uploaded to RPS as well. If your paper was uploaded to another repository, but not to RPS, within the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?), it may be possible to demonstrate that it complies with the REF policy. Contact the Open Access Team, providing the URL of the paper in the other repository, to discuss this.  

Does putting my paper in a pre-print service, ResearchGate or another repository comply?

Unless your paper is published as Gold open access, the final accepted manuscript should be uploaded to RPS, even if the paper is available through a pre-print service (e.g. arXiv, bioRxiv, chemRxiv, medRxiv or SSRN). These services cannot be used to demonstrate compliance with the REF open access policy, because they do not usually identify the version that was uploaded. However, where a version identical to the accepted manuscript/final version was uploaded to a pre-print service before first online publication, the paper can be treated as compliant with the REF open access policy under a special provision in the policy. Contact the Open Access Team if this applies to any of your papers. 

If your funder requires open access in a subject repository such as 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. If your paper was uploaded to another institution's repository or a subject repository, but not to RPS, within the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?), it may be possible to demonstrate that it complies with the REF policy. Contact the Open Access Team, providing the URL of the paper in the other repository, to discuss this.

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 may not denote open access. It is often just an indication that the content is available through a UCL subscription.

Gold open access papers are normally labelled "open access", and usually contain a Creative Commons licence statement. See If my paper is (or will be) published open access, should I still upload it?". 

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. The REF open access policy encourages authors to make outputs such as books and book chapters openly available. Units of Assessment can demonstrate their wider commitment to open access in their REF Environment statements. Making your work open access through UCL Discovery will lead to increased citations and greater visibility for your research.

Can papers under open access embargo at the time of the REF still be submitted?

Yes, provided that your final accepted manuscript was uploaded to RPS within the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?). 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, REF panels are expected to assess published versions of record, not accepted manuscripts.

Exceptions to the REF policy

I was not employed by a UK university when the paper was submitted

If you joined UCL from a non-UK HEI, and there is no other author with a UCL affiliation on the paper, the Open Access Team can apply this exception. Contact the Open Access Team to discuss particular papers. 

I was employed by another UK university when the paper was accepted

If you joined UCL from another UK university, and there is no other author with a UCL affiliation on the paper, the Open Access Team can apply this exception if it is not possible to determine that the paper complies with the REF open access policy. Contact the Open Access Team to discuss particular papers.

There was a delay in obtaining my final accepted manuscript

If you cannot obtain your final accepted manuscript within the required period (see When should I upload to RPS?), this exception may apply. If you are not the corresponding author, you should make all reasonable efforts to get hold of the manuscript from the corresponding author, from your other co-authors, or from the publisher. Contact the Open Access Team to discuss particular papers.

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 (because depositing the paper would put the author or the institution at risk), these exceptions may apply. Contact the Open Access Team to discuss particular papers.

The journal's embargo period is too long / the journal does not allow open access

Most journals are compliant with the policy. Where a journal does not comply, because it does not allow open access in a repository within 12 months (REF panels A and B) or 24 months (REF panels C and D) of publication, or doesn't allow open access in a repository at all, the author is encouraged to consider publishing in an alternative journal. If the author still wishes to publish in the chosen journal, and considers that it is the most appropriate publication for the work, an exception applies.

After your paper is accepted for publication, upload your manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS) as usual (see When should I upload to RPS?). 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, the REF policy recognises that the third-party content may be essential to the publication, and allows an exception if this is the case. You should upload the manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS) as usual (see When should I upload to RPS?), and inform the Open Access Team that your paper includes third-party content and should not be made open access.

The manuscript was uploaded within 3 months of first online publication, but not within 3 months of acceptance

Papers accepted for publication from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018 will be eligible for submission to the REF if they were deposited in an open access repository within three months of first online publication. Papers accepted after this date must be deposited in an open access repository within three months of acceptance. However, this exception applies to outputs accepted after 1 April 2018 that were deposited within three months of first online publication but not within three months of acceptance.

Other reason not covered by the exceptions above

This exception may only be applied in specific extenuating circumstances, for instance in cases of extended leave. Contact the Open Access Team for advice.

RPS and UCL Discovery

What is RPS?

RPS (Research Publications Service) is UCL's publications management system. Details of publications are imported or entered manually into authors' profiles in RPS, and transferred to IRIS overnight. Where a final accepted manuscript has been uploaded it is processed by the Open Access Team and made available in UCL Discovery according to the publisher's terms and conditions.

See our guides for help with managing your publications in RPS. If you are unable to log in to RPS, please complete ISD's self-service form.

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 uploaded to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS). They will then be processed by the Open Access Team and made openly available in UCL Discovery according to the publisher's terms and conditions.

What types of research can be made available in UCL Discovery?

Many types of publication can be uploaded to RPS and made open access in UCL Discovery according to the publisher's terms and conditions, including articles and conference papers, books and book chapters, and outputs from conferences, workshops and meetings held at UCL or organised by UCL researchers.

Datasets, figures, posters, software, models and similar outputs should be deposited in the UCL Research Data Repository

Contact the Open Access Team for more information.

I can't log in to RPS. What should I do?

If you can't log in into other UCL sites (such as UCL Moodle) there may be problem with your UCL password. See MyAccount - managing your UCL password.

If your password is working on other UCL sites, please complete ISD's self-service form.

How do I change a publication type?

RPS identifies publications by type (eg. conference paper). In some cases, you might need to change the type (eg. from conference paper to conference abstract). The publication type appears at the top of the full record in RPS. You will see a small pencil icon next to the output type. Click on it, and you will be able to select a different type; then save your changes.

My publications aren't appearing in date order. How can this be fixed?

If a publication does not display in chronological order in RPS and IRIS, it is likely that the reporting date field in RPS is not populated. Click on the title of the publication in RPS to view its full record. If the reporting date field towards the top right is blank, click on the pencil icon to add the publication date, then save. The corresponding IRIS record will update overnight.

Can duplicate RPS records be merged?

If you create a basic record for a paper when it is accepted (see our guide Record a publication in 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 merge automatically. If this does not happen, contact the Open Access Team and we will merge the duplicate records for you.

How do I upload my publications?

See our guide Upload your publication to RPS. The Library's e-theses pages explain how to upload a doctoral research e-thesis. For help uploading files, contact the Open Access Team.

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.

How do I add my ORCID ID to RPS

See our guide ORCID for UCL researchers. If you have any problems creating an ORCID ID, contact the Open Access Team.

Can I allow someone else to update my publications data?

You can give another member of UCL staff delegate rights to manage your RPS record.
To delegate, in RPS go to Menu>My Account>Account settings>Manage delegates. Enter the surname of your delegate, then select their name from the drop-down box that will appear. Click 'Enter', then 'Save'.

How do I get access as an administrator so that I can run reports and manage publications for my department?

Contact the Open Access Team to arrange this. 

Can I get publications lists and download statistics?

Publications lists can be exported from RPS and embedded in other webpages. These lists are chronological, based on the reporting date in RPS. If the date is incorrect or missing you can update it: see My publications aren't appearing in date order. How can this be fixed?

UCL Discovery shows download statistics by publication, measured by country, month and year. Contact the Open Access Team for more information.

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 cite the paper. Some records in UCL Discovery 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, 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.

For example:

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.

Open access funds

Can UCL pay my Gold open access costs?

The Wellcome Trust, and six other medical charities, provide UCL with central funding to pay for Gold open access. See our Wellcome Trust and COAF page. Until 1 October 2019, UCL's open access funds from the following funders are fully expended: Bloodwise, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Parkinson’s UK and Versus Arthritis.

UCL's UK Research Councils (UKRI) open access grant funds Gold open access for certain research papers funded by the AHRC, BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC and STFC.

UCL has a limited institutional fund for payment of costs for UCL corresponding authors who are full (not honorary or visiting) members of staff or students, publishing research papers in fully open access journals (only), where open access funding is not available from any research funder. Funds are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

For more information on Gold open access, complete this form and the Open Access Team will reply with a summary of your options and, if your paper is eligible for funding, details of payment procedures.

When should I contact the Open Access Team about Gold payment?

If you are considering submitting to a fully open access journal, contact the Open Access Team before you submit to check whether funds will be available. If your paper has been accepted in a subscription ('hybrid') journal (where a one-off payment unlocks otherwise paywalled content), contact the Open Access Team after acceptance, when you are offered open access. Complete this form and the Open Access Team will reply with a summary of your options and, if your paper is eligible for funding, details of payment procedures. In some cases, we will give you a code to supply to the publisher. 

You will find up to date information about UCL's open access funds on our Open access at UCL page.  

To check that your publisher complies with the REF policy, or your funder's policy, contact us before you submit.

Can UCL pay to make older papers open access?

No, UCL cannot pay to make papers Gold open access after publication. Instead, follow the Green open access route by uploading the final accepted manuscript to UCL's Research Publications Service (RPS). It will be made open access in UCL Discovery after the publisher's embargo period. You should also upload the final accepted manuscript to any subject repository (e.g. Europe PubMed Central) that your funder requires.

What are transformative subscription deals?

Transformative subscription deals allow all articles with UCL corresponding authors that are published with a particular publisher to be made Gold open access (open access on the publisher's website, with a licence that allows copying and re-use). They are a way for publishers to transition their subscription journals to full open access. To find out more, see our Transformative deals page. 

Is my publisher's Gold open access option acceptable?

Some funders, including the UK Research Councils (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust, require the CC BY licence where their funds are used 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.

For more information, complete this form and we'll reply with a summary of your options and, if your paper is eligible for funding, details of payment procedures.

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).

Use the guidance on the Think, Check, Submit website to help you assess journals. In particular, beware of 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.

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 that are not listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Can UCL pay publication fees, including page and colour charges?

In certain circumstances, UCL can pay mandatory publication charges for papers funded by a UCL UKRI research grant from our central UK Research Councils (UKRI) open access grant. The Research Councils do not allow authors to pay these costs from their own grants. Contact the Open Access Team for more information.

The Open Access Team has no other funds for publication charges.

How do I arrange payment?

To enquire about Gold open access, complete this form and the Open Access Team will reply with a summary of your options and, if your paper is eligible for funding, details of payment procedures.

Can I pay on a credit card and claim the funds back?

Provided that funds are available and that the journal complies with any funder requirements, the Open Access Team may be able to reimburse credit card payments if payment has to be made swiftly to avoid publication delays. However please contact the Open Access Team in advance to check.

How long does payment take?

If UCL is paying from funds deposited with a publisher, payment is immediate. If payment is by invoice/bank transfer, 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, it may be possible for you to pay on a credit card and ask the Open Access Team to reimburse you. Contact the Open Access Team before doing so.

What should I do if I receive an invoice reminder?

If the reminder relates to a payment that the Open Access Team is arranging, send it to the Open Access Team 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.

Other