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Introduction and background

Open Access to research publications involves making them freely available online rather than charging readers to read and use them. Open Access to research data makes data more widely available for re-use by others to support research, innovation and wider public use.

REF 2021 calls for author accepted manuscripts of journal articles or conference proceedings to be deposited in an Open Access repository at the time of acceptance for publication. The University administers publication funds for Research Councils and COAF that can reimburse publisher charges for immediate Open Access to the publisher's version. Other research funders have policies that call for Open Access.

The University operates an advice site at If you upload your manuscript, you will be advised on your options.

The University's Open Access Publications Policy Framework

In 2018, the University reviewed its Open Access Policy Framework. The policy, set out below, has been approved by the Open Access Project Board. A PDF version of the 2018 policy is available, and replaces the 2013 and 2017 versions.

Open Access Publications Policy Framework

This document sets out the University’s framework for ensuring that publications authored by University researchers, staff and students are made Open Access* (OA), where applicable.

Definitions for terms marked with an asterisk (*) are given at the end of the document.

Position statement

The University of Cambridge is committed to disseminating its research and scholarship as widely as possible to contribute to society as well as to academic advancement, in accordance with the University’s core values. All journal articles and conference proceedings should be submitted to the University’s Open Access Service based in the Office of Scholarly Communication. The Open Access Service will make as many outputs OA as possible in accordance with copyright and licence agreements. Additionally, the University encourages researchers to make monographs and book chapters available OA and is committed to assisting researchers to make them freely accessible in the public domain.

The payment of additional funds to publishers on top of subscriptions (known as ‘hybrid’ publishing) is considered to be an ineffective transition mechanism towards a wider OA system. Therefore, the University is actively engaging with the negotiation of offsetting arrangements with publishers and is supporting other OA activities that are deemed to improve the OA provisions available to the University’s researchers.

The University will provide the mechanisms and infrastructure necessary to help researchers comply with funders’ OA policies. However, researchers must bear some of the responsibility for complying with these policies, as well as with publishers’ policies. The complementary responsibilities of the University and the researchers are detailed below.

The University is committed to supporting researchers’ freedom to choose where to publish, as long as the journal of choice is not in conflict with their funders’ contractual requirements.

Responsibilities of the University

i. To provide a central OA service that helps authors to comply with all the relevant OA requirements and reduces the administrative burden of OA policies on academics.

ii. To assist researchers in depositing their publications into the institutional repository in a timely fashion and in accordance with funders’ requirements and respecting the copyright terms and conditions of publishers. This is done via the OA submission system. The University will also update and curate the records of the papers in the repository, and manage any embargo periods, as appropriate.

iii. To record the compliance of papers with the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 OA policy and apply exceptions to the policy where necessary for papers that are submitted through the OA system. The University will take responsibility for ensuring compliance if the paper is submitted through the OA system within the timeframe requirements imposed by the funders’ policies.

iv. To ensure the long term preservation of publications in the repository and maintain the repository accordingly.

v. To facilitate the ‘request a copy’* feature in the repository for papers that cannot be made freely available due to copyright or other restrictions.

vi. To advocate for OA to researchers, Departments, Faculties and Schools and communicate with them about OA requirements and the services offered by the University to help researchers comply.

vii. To manage the block grants* awarded to the University by Research Councils* and the Charity Open Access Fund* (COAF) in an effective and responsible manner. The University recommends green OA* as the most cost-effective way to achieve greater public access to research outputs in the short-term and supports this through points i-iii above. Publication in fully gold OA* journals is supported through funds provided by block grants and the University recognises that publication in gold OA journals might be the most sustainable way to support OA in the mid- to long-term. Publishing gold OA in a hybrid journal* will only be recommended when it meets certain funding guidelines (see Appendix).

viii. To optimise publishing options available to researchers by investigating offsetting deals and signing up to these if they are deemed to be cost effective and in the researchers’ and University’s interest.

ix. To review the effectiveness of this policy internally through compliance reporting.

Responsibilities of Researchers

i. To upload all their journal articles and conference proceedings to the University’s OA Service as soon as possible after they have been accepted for publication and no later than 3 months after this date (in accordance with REF OA policy). The version that should be uploaded is the author’s accepted manuscript* and the upload should take place via the submission system at

ii. To ensure their journal choice is compliant with their funders’ requirements. Researchers are encouraged to contact the Open Access Service for advice or use the SHERPA/FACT service.

iii. To ensure their papers are published with the correct licence according to their funders’ requirements.

iv. To engage with the information offered by the University on OA issues, and attend training sessions as appropriate.

v. To ensure OA publication costs are budgeted for in grants (if appropriate) and to safeguard this money within research budgets for this purpose. Researchers are encouraged to contact the Open Access Service or their proposed funder for advice.

vi. To make their best effort to reply to any ‘request a copy’ communications and keep their contact details up to date with the University, especially if one of their outputs is archived in the repository but not freely available.


Author’s Accepted Manuscript (AAM)

The author’s final accepted manuscript that contains all the changes made after peer-review but has not been typeset or copyedited by the journal/publisher in any way.

Block Grant

An annual sum of money received by the University from a funder specifically to pay for Open Access charges.

Charity Open Access Fund (COAF)

Partnership between Arthritis Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Bloodwise, Parkinson’s UK and the Wellcome Trust to enable free and unrestricted access to the published outputs of the research they support.

Gold Open Access

Open access at the time of publication. The final publisher’s version is Open Access via the journal’s website without any embargo period. Gold Open Access can be considered to be 'born Open Access'. Fully Open Access journals* sometimes (but not always) charge a fee for publication.

Green Open Access

Making a version of work (usually an AAM) available in an Open Access repository, for example, an institutional repository. This is usually allowed within the standard copyright terms of a journal and is not associated with any additional cost. Publishers may apply an embargo to manuscripts in a repository.

Hybrid Journal

A hybrid journal is a subscription journal where individual articles can be published Open Access on the payment of an article processing charge (APC). Some publishers recognise the extra cost burden on institutions with hybrid journals by offering ‘offset’ discounts.

Open Access

In the broadest sense this means the output is freely available online. This can be achieved through either Green or Gold Open Access routes.

Open Access Journal

Open Access journals are journals in which all the articles are available Open Access. There is no cost to the reader. The business model of these journals is either through support from learned societies, professional organisations or institutions, where there is no cost to the author, or through article processing charges which are generally met by funder grants.

Request a Copy Feature

This is a mechanism in the repository whereby if an item is not freely available to a reader they can send a request to the author via the repository for a copy of the work held in the repository.

Research Councils

Includes seven research councils:

Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)


Policy Version: 3
Date of Policy Review: August 2018
Name of Reviewer: Dr Arthur Smith, Open Access Service Manager
Policy Notes:

Further revisions to this policy may be required before the Date for Next Review in response to changes in funder policy and changes in the level of the Open Access block grants received

Original Policy Creation Date: January 2013
Name of Creator: Open Access Project Board
Date for Next Review: August 2019
Frequency of Reviews: At least annually
Review is the responsibility of: Head of the Office of Scholarly Communication
Location of Policy:

Last updated February 2020