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Services for Authors at the Penn Libraries: Open Access Publishing


Open Access

  • "Open access": as a publishing option refers both to reading and citing published works. If a text is openly accessible, it is free to read. Depending on how it is made available (See Creative Commons licenses), it may also be free to reuse.
    • Every piece of original, fixed expression is subject to copyright unless the author intentionally dedicates it to the Public Domain (See our copyright guide and our tab on Creative Commons licensing for more information on copyright and sharing your work).
  • "Open access" may not mean free to publish. There are multiple approaches to making an article or book open access, and four leading models of Open Access publishing (see the neighboring box for more on each model):
    • Green
    • Gold
    • Diamond/Platinum
    • Hybrid
  • Journals can be completely open access (PLOS, e-life, Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews). Some of these journals
    • Charge a fee to authors (or to their research grants),
    • Charge subscriptions to libraries, but are free to read, (also called "subscribe to open"); and some
    • Are free in all senses of the term--free to authors, free to readers, free to libraries (although sometimes sponsored by libraries or academic departments).
  • Journals can be subscription based but offer the option of open access for a fee. These journals are often referred to as "hybrid" journals.
  • Journals can be subscription based but allow others to post their pre-prints publicly.
  • A misconception about the descriptive term "open access," is that it means that there is no peer review. This is incorrect. Just as not all subscription based journals offer peer review, the same is true for open access journals. Please take a look at our tab for evaluating journal platforms to learn more about determining journal quality.

Open Science

2023 definition from the OSTP and the National Science and Technology Council: “The principle and practice of making research products and processes available to all, while respecting diverse cultures, maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility, and equity.” 

Preprint Servers

Pre-print platforms support Green Open Access. Most pre-print platforms are STEM based but there is one significant platform for the humanities and at least one significant server in the social sciences. What follows is a list of the more prominent pre-print platforms. Pre-prints are usually completed research (as opposed to work in progress) but have not been peer reviewed. In many cases, journals allows authors to post the pre-print of their accepted (post-peer reviewed) article. In this case, you would also find a link to the published journal at the journal site.

As of January 1 2025, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will implement what they are calling a policy refresh.  This refresh will  require preprints and encourage preprint review, and they will no longer support APCs. Read their one page summary of the plan

In January of 2024, elife will only review research that has been posted as a preprint and they will publish them as "reviewed preprints" with a publicly posted peer review along with a response from the author. Learn more about elife's publishing model and their editorial process

OAPEN OA books toolkit

OAPEN promotes the transition to open access for academic books through providing open infrastructure and by working with publishers to create a quality-controlled collection of books. OAPEN also provides services for libraries, publishers, and research funders in areas such as hosting, disseminating, and preserving digital books. 

OAPEN's oa books toolkit logo

OAPEN has also developed a toolkit for scholars considering publishing their work open access. it includes content supporting different steps along the research lifecycle, further reading and FAQ, definitions, and key terms

Of potential interest:  

Common myths about open access 

Why publish an open access book 


Types of Open Access

Green, Gold, and Diamond are notable models of OA publishing that describe how you make your scholarship openly accessible and the costs (or lack thereof) associated with it. Open Access publications may be accessed through a journal or publisher, through an author's personal website, or through other openly accessible platforms. The Sherpa Romeo database and the Directory of Open Access Journals platform provide information about the type of open access provided by individual journals.

  • Green Open Access

    • There is no fee for you to publish or for your audience to read. This might be publishing in a free-to-publish in and read journal or posting a copy of your scholarship in an institutional repository (Penn's repository is called ScholarlyCommons), your own website, or one of the many preprint platforms. Publishers will vary on what and whether they allow authors to post (preprints or version of record; immediately or after an embargo). This is something to keep in mind when you are signing contracts or reviewing your existing contracts.
  • Gold Open Access

    • This designation is used when a journal funds its open access model by charging the author a fee. This fee is often referred to as an APC or "article processing charge." Authors whose work is grant-funded must often make their work available openly within a specified period per the terms of their grants. In this case, the open-access publishing fee may be covered as part of the grant. Although GOLD Open Access exists across all disciplines, it is more typical in STEM fields than in Humanities or Social Science fields.
  • Diamond or Platinum Open Access

    • These newer OA models receive funding from grants, institutions, professional societies, and/or foundations, and therefore do not charge authors fees to publish or readers fees to read. Many libraries are working with scholarly associations and not-for-profit publishers to help support this model of open access: free to read and publish journals.
  • Hybrid

    • This term is used when a subscription based journal (libraries or individuals subscribe to the journal for a fee) offers authors the option to publish their articles as open access for an APC. If they choose not to, their article will be, at least initially (based on grant requirements), only available to those subscribing to the journal or who are affiliated with a library that provides access to the journal through their subscriptions.

Open Access Journals Receiving Subscription or Membership Support from the Penn Libraries


Although the Penn Libraries does not have funding to support APCs (author processing charges) to publish in open access journals, if you are looking to publish in an open access journal, all of the journals listed below have received subscription or membership support from the Penn Libraries, which should allow you to publish without a fee or at a reduced fee. Please contact your subject librarian for more information. This list will likely continue to evolve: 

Elsevier Agreement 2022

The Penn Libraries have partnered with other NERL libraries to establish a three year pilot through which authors who have published with many Elsevier journals and who were affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania at the time of publication will retroactively have their articles made open access. For each year of the agreement, Elsevier will flip five years of publications. 

By the end of the pilot, 15 years of published work, constituting tens of thousands of articles authored by leading researchers, will be newly available to everyone at no cost to them and regardless of institutional affiliation.  

  • The pilot includes all Elsevier owned journals. 
  • Eligible articles are those in which the corresponding author is (or was at the time) affiliated with Penn*
  • Eligible articles will be opened each year following a timetable of 1 year forward and 4 years back: 
    • Year 1 (2022): 1998 and 1994-1997 (inclusive) by April 1, 2022 
    • Year 2 (2023): 1999 and 1990-1993 (inclusive) by January 1, 2023 
    • Year 3 (2024): 2000 and 1986-1989 (inclusive) by January 1, 2024

For more information visit our Elsevier FAQ

*Or another Institution connected with the NERL negotiated agreement.

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