Models for open access — many flavors

By Karen Grigg, Associate Director of Collection Services at the Duke Medical Center Library:

Open Access comes in a variety of flavors.  The two main types of open access are that of open access journals and self-archiving methods

Open Access journals are those that are freely available to the end-user.  Since the reader does not pay for content, costs must be subsidized by the author or the institution. Along with publication fees, submission fees are sometimes charged.


BioMed Central, an online publisher of free peer-reviewed scientific articles, is sustained by revenue from institutions. However, the new “Shared Support Membership” allows institutions and authors to share article costs.

Public Library of Science, or PloS, charges a publication fee that can be paid by the author or the author’s employer. PLoS also relies on donations from foundations.

Self-archiving allows authors to submit their own material online so that it is accessible to the public.  There are two main varieties of self archiving; institutional repositories (IR), and Subject Based Repositories.  IR are hosted by an institution, such as a university, and bundles all the research output of the institution.  Often, the work is done by librarians or IT staff.  One such IR is eScholarship from the University of California.  A subject-based repository is hosted independently of an individual institution, and bundles the research output of a subject of discipline.  Authors voluntarily self-archive their work on a pre-print server.  An example of a subject repository  is Arxiv, a repository for- physicists and mathematicians.  Finally, authors often post articles on their own web sites, but the ability to do so requires negotiation with the publisher.

There are also some hybrid models of open access. Some publishers allow authors to decide whether or not an article can be openly accessed.  Authors who would like their article to be freely available can opt to pay the publishing fee.  These fees can be several thousand dollars per article.  The Delayed OA model gives public access to journal articles after an embargoed period, often 6 months to 1 year.  With a Partial OA journal, certain parts of the journal; often editorials or abstracts, are freely available, while the bulk of the content is for fee. Finally, Retrospective OA allows access to older journal articles that have been digitized.

For more background on Open Access Models, see:

Zhang, Sha Li. “OCLC Systems & Services | The Flavors of Open Access.” OCLC Systems & Services 23.3 (2007): 229-34. Emerald. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. <>.

“Peter Suber, Open Access Overview (definition, Introduction).” Earlham College — Richmond, Indiana. Web. 15 Sept. 2010. <>.

For more information, see the Open Access at Duke web site.

One thought on “Models for open access — many flavors”

  1. Some Devilish Details

    A few points of clarification:

    (1) For refereed journal articles, it is not that Open Access comes in two “flavours,” but that there are two ways for an author to provide it: by publishing in any journal at all, and self-archiving the refereed final draft (“Green OA”) or by publishing in an OA journal (“Gold OA”), often for a publication fee.

    (2) Most journals (over 80%) are not Gold OA journals, but most (over 90%) endorse some form self-archiving, over 60% of them (including virtually all the top journals) endorsing immediate, unembargoed Green OA self-archiving of the author’s final draft.

    (3) OA has been shown to increase research impact in all fields.

    (4) Nevertheless, only about 5-25% of authors self-archive spontaneously.

    (5) That is why over a hundred universities (including Harvard and MIT) and over 40 research funders (including NIH) have mandated (i.e., required) Green OA self-archiving.

    (6) Although the location where authors self-archive (institutional repository, central repository, author’s website) does not much matter for visibility, retrievability and impact, it matters a great deal for the practical implementation of self-archiving mandates, and for their probability of being adopted and complied with.

    (7) Institutions are the universal providers of all research output — funded and unfunded, across all disciplines.

    (8) Institutions also share with their researchers in the benefits of maximized visibility, access and impact for their research output.

    (9) Hence both institutions and funders need to mandate that articles must be deposit in the author’s/fundee’s institutional repository: Central repositories can then harvest from the institutional repositories.

    (10) For articles published in the minority journals that impose an embargo on immediate Green OA self-archiving, the immediate self-archiving can still be mandated, with access to the self-archived draft set as “Closed Access” instead of “Open Access.” Institutional repositories have a semiautomatic “email sprint request” button that can allow users to request and authors to provide a single sprint for research purposes with a single extra keystroke.

    Harnad, S. (2008) Waking OA’s “Slumbering Giant”: The University’s Mandate To Mandate Open Access. New Review of Information Networking 14(1): 51 – 68

    Harnad, S. (2008) How to Integrate University and Funder Open Access Mandates. Open Access Archivangelism. March 2 2008.

    Sale, A., Couture, M., Rodrigues, E., Carr, L. and Harnad, S. (2010) Open Access Mandates and the “Fair Dealing” Button. In: Dynamic Fair Dealing: Creating Canadian Culture Online (Rosemary J. Coombe & Darren Wershler, Eds.)

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