All You Need To Know About Open Access

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

As we come to the end of Open Access week, we thought it might be useful to outline some key information about Open Access – What is it? How do we take part as doctoral/early career researchers? How do we overcome common challenges?

Read on to find out more as our Open Access Librarian, Sam Nesbit, answered some of our questions!

We largely know that Open Access revolves around cost-free distribution of academic research – but from your perspective and in your words, what is open access?

I think the open access movement tends to reflect the working practices of many researchers more generally. Researchers, from the outset, are encouraged to read widely, to build networks, to collaborate & share best practice, to be supportive of your peers, and to be transparent about their methods in contributing to their fields: I’d contend that open access enhances researchers’ abilities to do just these things.

The University has a clear commitment to making its research available to the wider community and I think that’s to be celebrated. You can find all manner of studies on how open access increases impact & citations, accelerates the development of one’s field, and, importantly, is a cornerstone of both UK funder- & Research Excellence Framework-policy, but I think it really comes down to the removal of systemic barriers in the flow of scholarly information. To paraphrase a well-known trope, how can you stand on the shoulders of giants without, erm, a ladder in the first place? Sorry!

As researchers, what can we do to support the Open Access movement?

I think the best thing is to be aware of your options. Sure, everyone wants to publish in the ‘top’ journals in their field (we aim to support that too), but there are often opportunities to make your work open in different ways and many of these don’t come with a hefty price tag! Firstly, it’d be remiss of me not to mention that you should always deposit your accepted-for-publication work on Elements – the Institutional Repository (Sussex Research Online) that sits beneath Elements is a collection of the University’s research outputs and we want to include your contributions and make them open.

It’s useful also to talk to your peers and see what they’re doing. There are wonderful examples at Sussex of researcher-led open initiatives to which you might be able to contribute (e.g. Excursions, Sentio, REFRAME, Open Neurosciencethe Programming Historian and more) so the more you’re aware of these options, the better placed you’ll be to make the right call for your work. We always encourage researchers to come & talk to us about their plans to publish to see if we can help – it’s a two-way street and we want to learn what’s happening in your disciplines too.

What are some common barriers to open access for doctoral/early career researchers?

Sadly, it’s probably money, which is why I mention scoping out your options. We can support your publication in a variety of ways (see below) but, apart from a very small PGR fund and our publishing deals, we don’t have dedicated funds for open access. The pressure to publish in certain venues often means foregoing an open access option but this will become more & more difficult if you hope to get funding in future, given the shift towards mandating open access from many UK funders (Wellcome / UKRI etc.). I’d recommend having those conversations with your supervisor/peers sooner rather than later – getting on the open access path will probably save you hassle in the long run!

Do you have any suggestions on how we can overcome these?

Yes! Aside from making sure that you deposit your work Green open access via Elements, I’d recommend checking out our Institutional deals & discounts page. We’ve signed up to many agreements that allow Sussex researchers to publish for free or at a discount and we hope that these provide a wide coverage of disciplines and journals. And, as I’ve said, check out what your peers are doing – there might be an innovative open access initiative happening right under your nose!

How does the Library support OA? Is there anyway that we can take part?

We aim to support as many different models of open access as we can within our limited means. The Green route is easiest and ensures that your contribution to the University’s research is preserved and made available. For Gold open access, the aforementioned deals represent the largest options we offer (if you have questions about your journal of choice but can’t find out if it’s included, please get in touch). We support a few other models too, like Subscribe-2-Open and Opening the Future that essentially repurpose existing subscription costs to support open access publishing moving forward, as well as memberships that enable Sussex researchers to get a discount when publishing. All of these are detailed on our deals page.

Excitingly, we’re in the early stages of trialling a University open press and have begun work on the publication of a textbook with the Psychology department. It’s early days but the opportunity to help create open access content from scratch is really energising so watch this space (and get in touch if you have questions).

For those of us who don’t know where to start with thinking about OA, do you have any user-friendly resources for us?

We’re actually in the process of updating our webpages now so you can keep an eye on these over the coming months. Myself & Beth (our wonderful Research & Scholarship Librarian) run regular sessions as an introduction to open access for doctoral researchers via the RDP programme, and we regularly invite guest speakers to talk on open access matters at research seminars, which is a great way of getting clued up. You can follow us on Twitter @SussexUni_OA too. Open access moves quickly and can be a minefield of ever-changing information so the best advice is to probably get in touch with us at, and we can have a chat!

– Jamie Chan


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