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Open access explained

Terminology explained

Here are some explanations for common concepts and phrases used when people talk about open access.

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AAM: Author accepted manuscript

The author accepted manuscript is the last version of your paper that you submit to the publisher. It has

  • been through peer-review
  • been accepted for publication
  • not got any publisher formatting or branding, such as journal name and page numbers and does not contain tracked changes.

It is not the same as the publisher’s PDF. The publisher’s PDF version is often called the “version of record” (VOR) and most publishers do not allow this final version to be duplicated or made openly available in a repository. This diagram shows which article version is the author accepted manuscript.

Diagram showing that the author accepted manuscript version comes after peer-review but before the publisher's copy-editing and typesetting

Documents that have been typeset or copyedited by the publisher (such as proofs or the final published version) are not AAMs, but if you wrote your article in a publisher-supplied template so that the content and layout meet their submission requirements, then that is acceptable.

You must submit your AAM within three months of the paper being accepted for publication, if you don’t, it may affect REF eligibility.

Sometimes called a post-print, “final author version” or “final author manuscript”.

APC: Article Processing Charge

An article processing charge (APC) is a publisher’s fee to immediately make a work open access in either an open access journal or hybrid journal. This fee is paid by the author, the author's institution, or their research funder.

Paying an article processing charge does not guarantee that the author retains copyright to the work, or that it will be made available under a Creative Commons license.

APCs vary in amount, from £360 to as much as £8,000, although there is no explanation from the publishing industry why the costs differ so much. The average cost at Leeds (2021) is £2,360.

CC BY Creative commons licence

A Creative Commons licence allows the author to specify how other people can use their outputs.

A CC BY licence is the most permissive and allows people to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license also allows for commercial use.

Some research funders require that a Creative Commons – Attribution licence (CC BY) is applied to any outputs arising from work they fund, and they will not fund open access publication of articles without it.

Only the copyright holder or someone with express permission from the copyright holder can apply a CC license to a copyrighted work. So either the publisher must give their permission and apply a CC BY licence, or you must retain your copyright in the work so that you can apply the licence.

Date of acceptance

The date of acceptance is the date the author has notification from the journal publisher that their article has been accepted for publication.

UKRI defines the date of acceptance as the point at which an author has received the following notifications:

  • their output has been reviewed by the journal or conference (normally via peer review)
  • all academically necessary changes have been made in response to that review
  • the article is ready to be taken through to the final steps toward publication (normally copy-editing and typesetting).

You have three months from this date in which to submit your author accepted manuscript into the institutional repository so that it is eligible for the REF exercise.

Diamond open access

Publishers offering diamond open access make your paper or book immediately available open access without any fees. Copyright is retained by the author and permission barriers to share or reuse are generally removed by using creative commons licenses. The costs are generally borne by the institutions that run them, such as universities and societies.

Sometimes known as universal, platinum or pure open access.

Find out more in a 2021 report from cOAlition S and Science Europe: Diamond unearthed: shining light on community-driven Open Access publishing.

Embargo period

An embargo period is a delay required by a publisher before your work can be made open access through the green route.

They are imposed so that only those who have paid for access or have access through their institution can read the work during the embargo period.

A zero embargo period means you can make your research open access immediately at the point of publication. Two of the major publishers, Emerald and Sage, offer zero embargoes.

Whatever the embargo period, you must still deposit your work via Symplectic within 3 months of acceptance, but it will not be made available online through the repository until the embargo has expired.

There are maximum permitted embargo lengths set as part of REF eligibility.

See Funding and policies for more information.

Green open access

Green open access makes your research outputs freely available through an open access repository. No payment is incurred by you or your funder.

A version of the publication, usually the author accepted manuscript, is archived online in a repository. It can be freely accessed but sometimes only after an embargo period, and there can be barriers to reuse. The author usually does not retain the copyright in their work by default.

See How to publish open access for a fuller description.

Gold open access

Gold open access immediately makes research outputs openly available on the publisher's website at the point of publication.

You must usually pay for gold open access through article processing charges (APCs) or book processing charges (BPCs).

Copyright may be retained by the author and permission barriers to share or reuse are generally removed.

See How to publish open access for a fuller description.

Hybrid journal

A hybrid journal is a subscription journal that charges a fee to make an article open access.

This model is sometimes labelled double-dipping, as the researcher or university has to pay twice, once to read the journal and again to publish open access in the journal.


An open access repository is a digital repository where the content is freely available to download and reuse (sometimes with restrictions), where no login or subscription is required.

An institutional research repository is a digital repository for the storage of outputs from research undertaken at an organisation. These can be wholly open access repositories, closed access, or a mixture. Content that you might expect to find in an institutional research repository are: research papers, working papers, books, chapters, reports, PhD theses, datasets, and other digital objects resulting from research.

Subject (sometimes called disciplinary) repositories bring together digital content from similar research or areas of interest onto one platform.

The University of Leeds is part of the White Rose Repositories: White Rose Research Online (WRRO) and White Rose eTheses Online (WREO)

Rights retention

Rights retention means authors retain the copyright in their work, so that they may apply an open licence for reuse. Rights retention is a part of Plan S principles.

In practice, researchers give notice to publishers that an author accepted manuscript (AAM) arising from their submission to a journal carries a CC BY licence, in accordance with their grant conditions.

For example, Wellcome Trust require that this text is included in article submissions:

“This research was funded in whole, or in part, by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a CC BY public copyright licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission”.

Transformative agreement

Transformative agreements attempt to shift our spending on scholarly resources away from a subscription model of access towards open access publishing. Other names for them are read-and-publish deals, publish-and-read deals or transitional agreements.

See Publishing models and deals for a fuller description.