OA policy FAQs
Many institutions and research funders worldwide have introduced policies requiring researchers to ensure that their publications are openly accessible.
The following FAQs provide guidance on how authors can meet the OA policy requirements of their funders and institutions when publishing their research articles.
BioMed Central journals are fully open access. For authors interested in finding out about compliance with open access policies when publishing in subscription journals, see the guidance on our sister site for open research at nature.com and Palgrave Macmillan.
- What are the main types of open access policy requirements?
- How can I find out my funder/institution's OA policy?
- How do I know if the policy applies to me and my research?
- How can I meet policy requirements for gold OA?
- How can I meet OA licence requirements?
- How can I meet green OA archiving requirements?
- When should I be thinking about OA policy requirements?
- How do I meet the requirements of multiple OA policies?
- Can I publish with BioMed Central and meet OA requirements?
- How can I ensure that my article is eligible for the REF?
- My published article does not comply. What should I do?
- How can I comply with my funder's open data policy?
Where funders or institutions have an open access policy they usually require or encourage authors to make their research publications openly accessible through one or both of the following routes:
- Immediate open access publication on the publisher’s website, often referred to as the gold OA route
- Self-archiving or deposition of a version of the manuscript in an open access repository, often referred to as the green OA route
Funders and institutions may require authors to make their work for open access through a particular route (OA publication or self-archiving) or they may allow the author to choose whichever method they prefer. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive as articles published via the immediate open access route can also be made available in a repository, and in some cases OA policies may contain requirements relating to both types of open access.
Funders and institutions may also have open access policies that specify the license under which content is made available. Learn more about meeting OA license requirements.
Funders and institutions with open access policies will usually make these available on their website. OA policies can often be found with other information about research and publication policies, and in the case of research funders the policy requirements may also be included in the terms and conditions of research grants.
Directories of open access policies can be a useful place to start when searching for OA policies:
- BioMed Central’s page for funding for open access articles contains links to the OA policies of many research funders and institutions, as well as policy summaries for a number of major funders.
- SHERPA/JULIET contains details of the OA policies of various research funders worldwide.
- The ROARMAP directory contains information about organizations that have self-archiving (green) open access requirements.
Although these sources are a useful means of identifying policies and are regularly maintained, authors are advised to read through the full policy terms on their funder or institution’s website.
Where authors are unsure if their funder or institution has an open access policy, they should contact the organization directly or get in touch with our OA funding and policy support service for assistance.
Funders’ and institutions’ open access policies may apply to particular individuals, grant programmes, or publications. In particular, authors should check whether they fall within the scope of the policy in the following areas:
- Role: Authors should check whether their role within the organization affects how the policy applies to them. For example, a university’s open access policy may or may not apply to publications authored by students.
- Grant programme: Funders’ OA policies may apply to particular grant programmes.
- Policy implementation date: Authors’ publications may fall within the scope of the policy depending on the timeframe of certain factors such as the date of grant application or award, or the date of article submission, acceptance, or publication.
- Publication type: Policies may apply only to original research published in a journal or may also have requirements for other forms of research output, including monographs, book chapters, and data.
Where a funder or institution provides funding for a publication’s article processing charge (APC), additional open access requirements may apply. Authors applying for APC funding should ensure that they are able to meet these conditions as well as those within the main open access policy. For further information on OA funding and the common requirements associated with it, see our OA Funding FAQs.
Funders and institutions may prefer or require authors to publish their research via the immediate (gold) OA route. Authors publishing with BioMed Central are automatically able to comply with these policies as all BioMed Central journals are fully open access, meaning that all articles are published via the immediate (gold) OA route.
Funders with requirements or preferences for immediate OA publication will usually provide funding to support authors in complying with their policy. Find out more in our OA Funding FAQs.
Where research is published via the immediate (gold) OA route, funders often require the research is published under a Creative Commons license. Learn more about meeting OA license requirements
Authors should note that some OA policies may require them to make a version of the article available in a repository even when publishing via the immediate open access route. Learn more about meeting OA deposition requirements.
Publishing under an open access license, such as one of the Creative Commons (CC) licenses, permits authors and readers various rights for reuse and redistribution of the article as soon as it is published. A summary of each CC license type is available on the Creative Commons website.
Several funders require authors to publish under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license when they publish via the immediate open access route, or if the funder has paid an article processing charge (APC). A small number of funders are introducing policies requiring that publications are made available under a CC BY license in all circumstances.
All articles in BioMed Central journals are published under a CC BY license. This allows authors to be automatically compliant with the license requirements of all current funder policies. For further information, please see here.
OA policies may encourage or require authors to deposit or ‘self-archive’ a version their research article within a repository, where it can be made openly accessible.
Authors should note that some funders and institutions require a version of the article to be self-archived in a specific repository even where the article has been published via immediate open access.
Common self-archiving policy requirements are explained below. Read below to find out more about policy requirements for:
- Which repository to use
- Which version of the article to deposit
- When the article must be deposited
- When it must be made openly accessible
- Whether the publisher will deposit, or whether you will need to self-archive
Institutional policies often require deposition in an institution-specific repository as managed by the library. Funders may also have a specific repository requirement or permit that the article is available in an unspecified appropriate subject or institutional repository.
Several major funders in the life sciences have agreements with PubMed Central (PMC) and require authors to make their articles available in PMC or its regional equivalents. BioMed Central deposits the final version of all articles it publishes to PMC. Click here to learn more.
Policies may require that one or either of the following versions of the article is made available in the repository:
- Author’s accepted manuscript (AAM). This is the manuscript in the form when it is accepted for publication in the journal after peer-review is complete but before it has been typeset. This is also referred to as the accepted version or the author’s final version of the article. BioMed Central authors may make the AAMs of their articles available from the point of publication. It is advised that authors save a hard copy of the AAM version of their manuscript at the point of acceptance, ready to deposit.
- Final published version of the article. This is the version of the article that appears in the journal after typesetting. This is also known the version of record (VOR) or the publisher’s version of the article. Funders and institutions may require that this version is archived where it was published via immediate open access. Learn more about policies for archiving open access content published in BioMed Central journals.
Mandates for deposition of either the accepted or published version of the manuscript require that the available article has been peer-reviewed. Therefore, making the version of the article in its pre-submission form available in a pre-print server is not sufficient to meet the policy requirements.
Deposition vs. full availability
Some funders or institutions specify when and how the article should be deposited as well as when it should be publically available. For example, UK researchers participating in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment (REF) may need to meet certain requirements on the timeframe of their article deposition. Learn more about meeting REF requirements when publishing in BioMed Central journals.
Funder and institutional self-archiving policies often specify a timeframe within which articles must be made openly available, usually referred to as the maximum embargo period.
Open access policies may require that authors publishing via the immediate (gold) open access route make the deposited version of the article available to access immediately after publication.
As a fully open access publisher, all content published in BioMed Central journals can be deposited and made available in article repositories immediately after publication.
Publisher or author archiving
In some cases, publishers may archive a version of manuscripts on behalf of authors in order to assist authors in meeting funder and institutional OA requirements.
BioMed Central deposits the final published versions of all articles in certain repositories, including PubMed Central. Click here to learn more.
In order to meet funder and institutional OA policy requirements, authors may have to take actions at various stages during the submission process. Some key stages include:
- While selecting a journal. Authors should compare journal OA policies and options with the requirements of their funder and institution, to ensure that they can meet all policy conditions, and also any requirements attached to their APC funding. Learn more about common OA policy requirements and common APC funding conditions.
- At the point of acceptance. Authors may also need to self-archive a copy of their manuscript if their funder or institution requires that they do so at the point of acceptance.
- After publication. Authors may need to self-archive a version of their manuscript at the point of publication.
Our open access checklist provides further guidance on key steps to take in order to help ensure compliance with OA policy requirements and to identify APC funding for OA publications.
Where article co-authors are based at different institutions or the research has been funded by more than one funding body, there may be multiple open access policies that need to be met. Corresponding authors should ensure that they are aware of all applicable open access policies, and that the policies and OA options of the journal will allow compliance with these requirements.
In general, open access policies will not conflict, even if they have different requirements. For open access licenses, the option that will satisfy most conditions will usually be the least restrictive license.
Note that different funders and institutions may require deposition in different specific repositories. There are no restrictions on the number of repositories in which an article may be self-archived, so authors will be able to meet self-archiving requirements by ensuring that the article is available in all of the specified repositories within the required timeframe.
Our free OA funding and policy support service can provide advice on meeting multiple OA policies.
BioMed Central journals allow authors to comply with all open access policies worldwide.
However, our OA funding and policy support service can provide personalized advice to authors who have queries about meeting their OA policy requirements across all Springer Nature journals.
To order to be considered for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) post-2014 REF programme, UK authors of journal articles and conference proceedings with ISSNs accepted for publication after 1 April 2016 must deposit the accepted (or published, where permitted by the publisher) version of their article in an institutional or valid subject repository no later than three months after initial publication. From 1 April 2018, articles should deposited be within three months of acceptance, although journal-specific embargo periods for public availability may be observed. Authors are permitted to make a ‘closed deposit’ on acceptance, where a full copy of the article is placed in a repository but not immediately freely available to read. For further information, please refer to the full policy.
UK authors publishing in BioMed Central journals are automatically compliant with HEFCE’s open access policy, as articles published by the gold route are encouraged, but not required, by HEFCE to be deposited. Depositions of post-REF eligible articles to a repository may still be mandated by UK institutions, and authors should confirm the policy requirements of their institution(s) prior to article acceptance.
In all cases it will be possible for BioMed Central authors to meet funder and institutional OA policy requirements after the point of publication.
Where the funder or institutional OA policy requires self-archiving or manuscript deposition, authors should deposit their manuscript in the required repository(ies) in accordance with the terms of their funder and institutional OA policy.
Research organizations have historically focused on open access to research publications, specifically in peer-reviewed journals. However, many funders and institutions are now introducing policies on the openness of research data. These typically focus on the practices of researchers for sharing and preserving research data, for example, by creating a data management plan, or making data openly available within a suitable repository. We advise that authors refer to the policies of their research funder(s) and institution to confirm which requirements may apply to their research data.
Springer Nature journals encourage data sharing where possible, and employ policies and services that allow authors to meet their open data requirements. To find out more, visit our research data policies webpage. For further advice on the journal policies as well as meeting funders’ data requirements, authors can contact our research data policy support helpdesk.
For further assistance in understanding and complying with open access policies, please contact our free OA funding and policy support service.
If you are interested in publishing via the immediate OA route see our OA funding FAQs for guidance on identifying and applying for open access publication funds.
If you have any feedback on these FAQs, including suggestions for further information on OA policies you would like to see, please let us know at OAsupport@springernature.com.