Skip to main content

Unfortunately we don't fully support your browser. If you have the option to, please upgrade to a newer version or use Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari 14 or newer. If you are unable to, and need support, please send us your feedback.

Publish with us

An introduction to open access

If you have questions and feel confused about open access, you’re not alone!

On this page, we’ll walk you through the basics of open access and will help you understand its different varieties and associated issues. Once you feel you understand it sufficiently and are ready to embark on your open access publication, you can check out our OA resources for authors.

Woman in library with a tablet

What is open access?

Open access, commonly abbreviated to “OA” is usually taken to describe permanent, free, and public access to research. Open access is an increasingly popular way to publish academic and scientific research. By 2023, for example, more than 23 million articles were tagged as "open access" in Scopus.

Perspectives differ as to how open access ought to be defined. But the ability of readers to freely access and reuse published papers (with attribution), and the importance of long-term, public archiving of research outputs are key points shared by the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishingopens in new tab/window and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanitiesopens in new tab/window.

Publishing in an open access journal does not imply an inferior quality output. Open access journals and subscription journals can and do operate in the same fashion with regards to the peer review process. That is, articles should still be subject to rigorous peer review and the publication process is otherwise identical.

Consequently, open access journals can and do operate in the same way as traditional subscription journals when it comes to peer review and long-term sustainability. Articles should still be subject to rigorous and fair peer review, and journals still work to ensure research outputs are properly indexed and maintained for generations to come.

As a global leader in open access, Elsevier offers a wide range of options to fit the diverse needs of researchers, institutions, academic societies and funders around the world.

Elsevier Explainers - what is open access?

In this short video, we’ll walk you through the basics of open access and will help you understand its different varieties and associated issues.

What sort of open access models are there?

There are various open access models which operate in academic publishing.

These include:

  • Gold open access

  • Green open access

  • Bronze open access

  • Diamond open access

Let’s look at each of these in turn…

What does “gold open access” mean?

If you are publishing under the gold model, the final version of your article in question is made freely and immediately available to anyone upon publication. To recoup the cost of publishing the article and to ensure its long-term accessibility, you will be asked to pay an article publishing charge (APC) at the point of acceptance. APCs are calculated on a range of criteria which can include:

  • Journal quality (as measured by, for example, Field Weighted Citation Impact)

  • The journal’s editorial and technical processes

  • Competitive considerations

  • Market conditions

  • Other revenue streams associated with the journal

You might publish your gold OA publication in a gold open access journal, i.e. a journal publishing only open access content. Otherwise, many journals offer authors the choice between subscription-funded or gold (APC-funded) publication; this arrangement is known as a “hybrid journal”. NB publishing an article under the gold OA model doesn’t imply any particular license (please see below on the difference license types).

What does “green open access” mean?

Green OA means making a version of the subscription article (usually the accepted manuscript) freely available, usually after a set time – an “embargo period”. The article will commonly be made available in an institutional repository or archive. As green OA relies on the subscription model and is not a separate business model in its own right, an embargo period is needed to allow the subscription model to operate before free versions of articles are made publicly available.

At Elsevier, in setting the embargo period, we strive for a balance between enabling sharing at the earliest opportunity and ensuring that the journals themselves are able to operate sustainably. There are many ways in which authors can share versions of their subscription article at different stages in the publication process.

What does “bronze” open access mean?

Bronze OA takes place when an article is made freely available without a Creative Commons end user license. Either an alternative license is applied, or no license at all. Examples of the Bronze OA model are Elsevier's Open Archive or articles made available for promotional access reasons.

What does “diamond” open access mean?

Diamond OA refers to open access journals or platforms that are both free to read and free to publish in. Funding models for Diamond OA can include financial subsidies and support from publishers (such as learned societies), government agencies and institutions.