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Definition of open access

Open access can be defined as research that is immediately available online, free of charge to the reader, free of most copyright and licensing restrictions (based on Peter Suber’s open access overview).

Benefits to making your work open access as an author

Making your research open access is very advantageous as it makes research freely available and accessible to anyone online. Due to shrinking budgets, many institutions cannot afford journal subscriptions, and this prevents access to current scholarly research.

Other benefits are:

  • Your scholarly output has better visibility and can make an impact, which will allow an increase of citations.
  • Open access also prevents duplication of research, and may furthermore encourage international collaboration to take place.
  • Innovation can take place at a faster pace because the latest research is accessible.  Research findings may also influence public policy, and furthermore contribute to the resolution of complex scientific problems.

More information on benefits can be found at: SPARC Europe, Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook and Alma Swan’s presentation on the benefits of open access.

Benefits to making research open access for UCT

Publically funded research should be publically available, enabling access to research findings. The availability of having UCT’s research open access also provides a research display of what is produced by its academics; raising the visibility of UCT’s publication output internationally. The knowledge produced is no longer hidden behind journal paywalls and drives internet traffic to the institution’s website.

Furthermore, the open access institutional repository improves UCT’s institutional ranking as the ranking system for the world’s universities are based on web presence, visibility and web access. This web presence of UCT’s scholarly output is an indicator of how well UCT is performing world-wide. Currently UCT is ranked number one in Africa and 350th in the world ranking of universities out of nearly 12 000 universities.

Making research discoverable through the OpenUCT Repository enables UCT to preserve their publishing output. A persistent identifier is added to all material posted, which means that the URL never changes and is resolvable even if the content is migrated to a new system.

Furthermore, many funding agencies, such as National Institutes of Health, European Commission, Research Councils of United Kingdom and Wellcome Trust insist that research findings be available open access as one of its compliance rules. South Africa’s National Research Foundation has recently released an open access statement, encouraging its grantees, from 1 March 2015, to deposit their final manuscript into an institutional repository, but this is not a mandatory obligation, as the international funding agencies listed earlier.

In 1878, Daniel Coit Gilman, the First President of Johns Hopkins University, stated: “It is one of the noblest duties of a university to advance knowledge and to diffuse it, not merely among those who can attend the daily lectures, but far and wide. “

Impact and Altmetrics

Citation metrics is the traditional method of measuring and evaluating impact (such as measuring your H-Index), which is also slow to accumulate. As scholarly communication has moved online other indicators of scholarly impact have become available to measure and evaluate research.


The indicators are alternative metrics (Altmetrics), which provide a clearer picture of tracking impact of individual research outputs at a faster pace than just the traditional, citation metrics. Altmetrics also provide impact for non-traditional research output, such as datasets and creative productions, as well as non- journal scholarly outputs such as books and media coverage. Both metrics must be taken into account to evaluate the influence of the scholarly work in the digital age.

Article Level Metrics (ALMs)

Article Level Metrics (ALMs) measures the effect of the actual journal article, and not the entire journal issue that it is published in. Prior to the social web, research was evaluated on journal level only, which implied that all the articles in that journal were viewed the same. ALMs count how many times the article is blogged, viewed, downloaded, bookmarked and tweeted about, as well as count the citations; redefining the impact of research.

Some altmetrics tools used to measure impact and share research are: Altmetric.com, Impact Story, Plum Analytics

Additional resources:
Altmetrics Collection (2012) PLOS Collections: http://www.ploscollections.org/altmetrics
Altmetrics: What, Why and Where? The ASIS&T Bulletin special section on Altmetrics
Tananbaum, G. (2013). Article level metrics: a SPARC primer

UCT’s Open Access Policy

UCT passed its Open Access (OA) Policy in June 2014. By adopting this policy, UCT shows it’s committed to increasing its visibility and discoverability of scholarly output, as well as preserving its research. According to the Registry of Open Access Repository Mandates and Policies, UCT is one of six universities in South Africa to have an OA policy.  The OA Policy states that authors are encouraged to deposit all their scholarly research into UCT’s official open access institutional repository, OpenUCT.

The type of scholarly output mentioned in the Policy includes:

  • Open educational resources;
  • Books, chapters in books and journal articles;
  • Research and technical reports;
  • Conference papers and conference proceedings; and
  • Theses and dissertations.

UCT Libraries will implement the OA policy at UCT through the managing of OpenUCT Repository.

Article processing charges (APCs) and institutional membership

This is a publication fee that is usually associated with open access scholarly publishing. Unlike the traditional business model for subscription journals, publication fees are charged to the author, institution or funding agency.

Suber and Sutton showed that 83% of open access journals published by learned society publishers make no charge for their open access journals.

Some open access publishers which use the APC business model are:

If you would like to publish in an accredited open access journal, UCT Libraries oversees the Open Access Journal Publication Fund, which will be awarded to you if the criteria listed on the website are adhered to.

UCT Libraries also has a membership with BioMed Central, which means that the article processing charges are discounted.

Further resources:

Solomon, D.J. &  Björk, B. (2012). A study of open access journals using article processing charges.  Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(8): 1485-1495.

Scholarly Communication

Scholarly communication is the research process of sharing, publishing findings, dissemination and preservation of knowledge amongst the scholarly community. Publishing and disseminating findings are implemented through open access and electronic theses and dissertations, which are discussed below.

Two methods to implement open access are open access repositories (green route) and open access journals (gold route).


Open access repositories: Green route

Open access repositories may be subject-specific repositories that centralise collections, like the economics repository RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) or the physics repository, arXiv.

Institutional repositories are online archives that showcase the intellectual outputs of an institution. OpenUCT Repository and was launched in July 2014. OpenUCT collects, preserves and makes available the scholarly output created by UCT’s authors, such as open education resources, theses and dissertations, journal articles, chapters in books, book, technical and research reports and conference papers. Access to this intellectual output is immediately accessible, unless embargoed (delayed open access) for a brief period. UCT authors are thus allowed to deposit any scholarly output that is mentioned in its open access policy.

The versions of the scholarly output allowed in OpenUCT vary, as it must comply with the publishers archiving policies. The versions are: pre-print, post-print (author accepted manuscript) or published version and can be better understood by looking at SHERPA/RoMEO’s website to screen publishers archiving policies. This website allows you to browse publishers which are given an assigned colour code.  If you are unclear which version you are allowed to deposit into OpenUCT, please contact the staff and assistance will be provided to you.

OpenUCT, like all open access repositories, allow its content to be indexed and discovered by search engines, such as Google and OAIster. This institutional repository uses DSpace as its software platform and the Repository metadata can be harvested by a standard harvesting protocol known as Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).

Metadata guidelines have been compiled to adhere to international standards and ensure all UCT’s digital objects have sufficient metadata to describe the items and that it is consistently applied.

Author’s rights                             

As a UCT author, you would want to publish in a journal of prestige, as well as have the widest distribution and impact of your research, but you could find out that the publisher does not allow the broadest distribution of your work (e.g. depositing a copy in OpenUCT).

As an author, you have the right to modify your copyright agreement by communicating your requirements, such as: the right to use the article in your teaching, the right to incorporate the content in subsequent work (whilst citing the first publication), as well as depositing the author accepted manuscript version of the article in OpenUCT with a limited embargo period. The publisher is free to accept or reject these modifications. By merely accepting the publisher’s copyright agreement, without wanting to retain some of your rights as an author, you will be limiting the distribution of your research and lessening its potential impact in the scholarly community.

There is a SPARC author addendum, which is a legal document that allows you to keep some rights to the article as an author. UCT will have its own author addendum shortly, which will not vary in content to SPARC’s version.

Additional resources:

Copyright, including benefits of publishing with a Creative Commons license

At UCT, authors own copyright to their scholarly work. Some academics do not want to add their scholarly works to OpenUCT, as they believe that they will be infringing on copyright as they have transferred their copyright to the publisher. Or, if an academic publishes in an open access journal, then the article is not copyrighted. This is not the case as an article is copyrighted whether copyright belongs to the publisher or to the author. Most subscription based journals will insist that an author sign a copyright transfer agreement, which means that the author is required to transfer copyright upon publication.

An author and copyright holder can let readers know what they are authorised to do with the research by attaching a Creative Commons license to it. There are six types of these licenses, which allow the reuse of research in the broadest sense, but with differences.  

For more information on Creative Commons in a South African context, download this licensing guide that includes FAQs and third party copyright.

Open access journals: gold route

Open access journals, also known as gold open access, are available free of charge to the readers. There are no access restrictions to open access journals, which are mainly electronic journals. The journals are financed by payment paid by the author or institution to publish an article and not through a subscription to access the article, thus placing no financial burden on the reader for access. Journal articles are also made available immediately, with no embargo delay.

Publishing in open access journals means that the copyright remains with the author and is not transferred to the publisher. This means that the author retains control over how the research is used whilst disseminating it to a global audience.

Additional resources:

  •  “Scientist meets publisher”, by Alex Holcombe. This is a video that highlights the issues with having to sign copyright away (2:58 minutes)
  • Open access publishing in South Africa A video by the founder of Open Journals Publishing and African Online Scientific Information System, who discusses the importance and benefits of open access publishing in South Africa (14:41 minutes).
  • A video of BioMed Central's authors and editors discuss the benefits of open access publishing (3:58 minutes)
  • Some articles on Research on open access publishing

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

This is an online Directory that lists open access, peer-reviewed, journals that have been indexed. Over 10 000 journals can be searched by title, ISSN, broad subject area or keywords, with more than 60 percent searchable at article level. This Directory has journals from all disciplines and all languages and aims to be a one-stop shop for access to scholarly open access journals. The DOAJ has revamped their criteria to be indexed, which includes no charge to the readers, exercise peer-review and have editorial quality control. The inclusion criteria ensures guarantee of content.

Open access journals (gold open access) VS an open access option (hybrid)

Many academic commercial publishers, such as Elsevier, Springer, Wiley and Taylor and Francis, offer an open access option, in addition to their subscription model. This is known as a hybrid model, which is a mixed revenue model of subscription charges and publication fees. Authors can publish an open access article in a journal that has restricted access. This is seen as “double dipping” as the author pays the publisher to make the individual article open access and the publisher receives a second payment for the same article through a subscription for the journal.

Through research, it has been proven that the article processing charges for the hybrid option is more expensive than the charges for publishing in an open access journal.

UCT Libraries role in hosting open access journals

Many academic libraries are now playing a role in scholarly publishing by offering their services of hosting open access journals. This service adds value to its academic staff who may be editors, serve on editorial boards or journal mangers. Libraries are not just providing support at the beginning of the research cycle, but can provide support in the dissemination of the research produced at the institution.  This new service is especially important in the rising serials crisis. Many academic publishers use the open source platform, Open Journals System (OJS), to manage the journal publication process. This software platform assists in every stage of the publishing process, from the submission process to the online publication.   Currently over 7000 academic journals are published using OJS globally.

UCT Libraries will be offering a hosting service for academic journals published by UCT in 2015. Contact the Access and Visibility Services for more details.

Electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs)

According to UCT’s Intellectual Property Policy and student rules, UCT has the non-exclusive, royalty free license to publish masters and doctoral theses and dissertations in the OpenUCT Repository. The guidelines for student submission highlight the benefits to having your ETD available open access, as well as some information on copyright and licensing. This guide mentions the process to follow for deferred publication to enable a publication in a scholarly journal.

Open Educational Resources

UNESCO’s definition of Open Educational Resources (OER) is that they are any type of educational materials that are in the public domain or introduced with an open license. The nature of these open materials means that anyone can legally and freely copy, use, adapt and re-share them. OERs range from textbooks to curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and animation. (UNESCO 2014: 1)

In essence, an OER  is a teaching and learning resource created and licensed in such a way that promotes some or all of the following: free and easy retention, redistribution, reuse, revision, and remixing.

At UCT, OER has typically been the portfolio of the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and a separate Health Sciences Faculty OER team.