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Open Access

This guide is to help UNLV authors learn about open access, article processing charges (APCs), avoiding predatory publishers, and open access policies.

Introduction to Open Access

Open Access refers to publications which are free to anyone with an internet connection. This includes the rights to view, read, download and build upon the work being read.  There are variations in open access publishing, however. For example, the work may be made freely available to find and read, but not to re-use.  The most common types of open access include journals that use a business model that allows for free access to readers (no subscriptions) but receives sponsorship or supports itself through charges to authors instead.  Repositories, often institutionally or disciplinary based, allow scholars to deposit their research articles in an online, central database freely accessible to anyone.


Good open access practices offer the following:

  • The same peer-review process and other quality control (editorial board) as traditional models
  • Unrestricted access to all readers, thus increasing visibility and potential impact of the work
  • Discoverable and accessible to everyone through traditional indexes and search engines such as Google Scholar
  • Copyright often remains with the author(s)
  • Conformity with federal law requiring that research conducted using NIH funds and grants from other agencies be made freely available.
  • Increased access to research and higher citations than traditional methods (The OA Citation Advantage - SPARC Europe)

Definitions of Commonly Heard Terms

Article Processing Charges (APCs): APCs are paid by authors (often through grant funding). They are used by open access journals in lieu of subscription fees to support the cost of publishing and may generate revenue for the publisher.

Green Open Access: An author publishes their article in a pay-to-access journal, and then is able to self-archive a version of their work into an open access repository, as well as the author's website.

Gold Open Access: An author publishes their article in an open access journal, where anyone can access the article (similar to publishing in an institutional repository).

Diamond or Platinum Open Access: Open access journal supported by sponsors. Neither authors or subscribers pay for journal publishing.

Hybrid Open Access: A journal or publisher that is primarily pay-to-access, but has some articles that are open access.

Predatory Publishers: Predatory publishing is an exploitative academic publishing business model that involves charging publication fees to authors without providing the editorial and publishing services associated with legitimate journals.

Publisher Policy: Publishing companies often have policies related to where authors can share versions of their full-text works. These policies frequently can dictate when, where, and how authors can share their work.

Pay wall: A pay wall is a virtual "wall" behind which journal articles exist that someone must pay a fee to access. For researchers affiliated with an academic or research institution, this fee is often paid for by the institution in a subscription-based model. 

Pre-Print: A draft of an academic article before being submitted for peer review

Post-Print: The "final draft" of an academic article after peer review but before copy-editing.

Publisher Version/PDF: The version of an academic article that is formatted for publication in a journal and/or online

Embargo: A period of time that an academic article cannot be deposited into an institutional or open access repository

What is an Institutional Repository?

An institutional repository is an archive for collecting, preserving, and disseminating digital copies of the intellectual output of an institution, particularly a research institution. For institutions like UNLV, an institutional repository primarily contains scholarly outputs such as articles, conference presentations, posters, and more.


The primary purpose of Digital Scholarship@UNLV, and institutional repositories like it, is to make the full-text of works produced by scholars at a university freely available and discoverable to anyone with an internet connection. This ensures scholars, students, taxpayers, potential collaborators, and others can find and have access to the research they need or want, and in turn broadens the audience for authors, encouraging additional use of the work and citations to it.

Another purpose of a repository is to help institutions highlight the research and creative activities accomplished locally. Just as abstracting and indexing databases cover specific subjects (think of CINAHL, Engineering Village, or the MLA International Bibliography), Digital Scholarship@UNLV does something similar but is based on institutional affiliation rather than discipline. The library showcases the research at UNLV by entering records for scholarly and creative products reported in Digital Measures, by request from individual faculty members, and through citation database alerts. 


Many research institutions (how many?) have robust repositories, which hold open access copies of accepted manuscripts (post-prints) and in some cases, final published versions of articles. We encourage UNLV authors to share their research widely and  to ask us how to participate in Digital Scholarship@UNLV.

Authorship of this Guide

This guide was created with content and resources from other guides (credited where applicable) and content created by Andrea Wirth, Scholarly Communication Librarian, and Christina Miskey, Citation & Bibliography Assistant.

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