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.
1. What are the main types of open access policy requirements?
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. For more information on this, please see FAQ 4.
- Self-archiving or deposition of a version of the manuscript in an open access repository, often referred to as the green OA route. For more information on this, please see FAQ 6.
Funders and institutions may require authors to make their work 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 licence under which content is made available. For more information on meeting OA licence requirements, please see FAQ 5.
For further information on immediate (gold) OA publication and self-archiving (green OA), see our introduction to open access.
2. How can I find out if my funder or institution has an open access policy?
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:
- Springer Nature’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 organisations 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 organisation directly or get in touch with our OA funding and policy support service for assistance.
3. How do I know if the policy applies to me and my research?
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 organisation 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.
4. My funder/institution requires or prefers me to publish via the immediate (gold) OA route. What options do I have?
Funders and institutions may prefer or require authors to publish their research via the immediate (gold) OA route. In these cases, authors can opt to publish their work in a fully open access journal, or to choose the OA option when publishing in a Transformative Journal (a journal that has committed to transitioning to fully OA) or a hybrid journal (a journal that publishes both subscription and OA content).
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.
Immediate open access requirements are often accompanied by conditions for open access licencing. For more information about meeting OA licence requirements see FAQ 5.
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. For more information on meeting OA deposition requirements, please see FAQ 6.
Find out about OA publishing options in our open access journal web page.
5. My policy has a requirement for an open access licence. What does this mean and how can I comply?
Publishing under an open access licence, such as one of the Creative Commons licences, permits authors and readers various rights for reuse and redistribution of the article as soon as it is published. A summary of each CC licence type is available on the Creative Commons website. Authors should check the terms of the licence prior to selection so as to ensure compatibility with any additional funder or institutional requirements.
Several funders require authors to publish under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence 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 licence in all circumstances. Authors will usually need to publish via the immediate gold open access route in order to be able to licence their work as their funder or institution requires. For more information about meeting requirements to publish OA, please see FAQ 4. For specific information on complying with Plan S requirements, please see our dedicated FAQs page.
For further information on open access licencing in Springer Nature journals, please see our open access licensing policy on our journal policies page.
6. My policy asks me to deposit a version of the article in a repository. What does this mean and how can I meet all policy requirements?
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 publicly accessible. This is also known as the ‘green’ OA route. In the case of articles published via the subscription route, publisher policies may stipulate which version of the manuscript the author can archive, this version is usually subject to restricted re-use terms, and often requires that content is not made available until a specified period of time has elapsed since publication, often referred to as an ‘embargo period’.
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.
Institutional policies often require deposition in an institution-specific repository that may be 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.
Where articles are funded by organisations with a PMC agreement, authors can self-archive using the following links.
- Funder has an agreement with PMC: NIH manuscript submission system (step-by-step tutorials)
- Funder has an agreement with Europe PubMed Central: Europe PMC Plus (step-by-step guide)
Policies may require that one or either of the following versions of the article is made available in the repository:
- Accepted manuscript (AM). 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. Most publishers allow the deposited AM to be made accessible after an embargo period, but authors should check the publisher and journal policy. It is advised that authors save a hard copy of the AM version of their manuscript at the point of acceptance, ready to deposit. Learn more about policies for archiving subscription content published in Springer Nature journals on our journal policies page.
- Final published version of the article. This is the version of the article that appears in the journal after typesetting. This is also known as the version of record (VOR) or the publisher’s version of the article. Funders and institutions may require that this version is archived if it has been published via immediate open access. For more information about self-archiving and manuscript deposition policies for open access articles published in Springer Nature journals, please see our journal policies page.
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 preprint server is not by itself sufficient to meet the full 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 publicly available. Notably, as of April 2018 UK researchers participating in the post-2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment (REF) will be required to deposit their articles in an institutional repository no later than three months after acceptance, and so many UK institutional OA policies have also introduced this requirement.
There may be a gap between a manuscript being deposited and a manuscript being made publicly available. Publisher self-archiving policies may permit deposition at the point of acceptance in order to allow authors to meet deposition requirements, provided that content is not made publicly available until the appropriate embargo period has been observed. For more information about meeting REF requirements when publishing in Springer Nature journals, please see FAQ 10.
Funder and institutional self-archiving policies often specify a timeframe within which articles must be made publicly available, usually referred to as the maximum embargo period. Different timeframes may be specified for different disciplines. Some policies do not specify a maximum embargo period, but instead state that availability must occur as soon as possible, or as soon as is permitted by the publisher.
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.
Authors should check that the publisher or journal’s self-archiving embargo period will allow them to meet the OA requirements of their funder or institution.
Prior to submission, authors should check that each of the terms for self-archiving in any funder and/or institution’s policy as described above are compatible with the journal and publisher policy on article archiving.
For more information about self-archiving policies for subscription and open access articles published in Springer Nature journals, please see our journal policies page.
7. At which stages of the publication process should I be thinking about how I can meet OA policy requirements?
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.
- At the point of acceptance. Several choices may be made by the author when an article has been accepted for publication, including selecting whether to publish via the OA route in a transformative or hybrid journal, and which licence to publish under if a range of options is available. Authors may also need to self-archive a copy of their accepted manuscript.
- 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.
8. My article is subject to multiple open access policies. How can I ensure that all requirements that apply to me and my co-authors are met?
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 example, if one funder requires that an article be made available in a repository no later than six months after publication, and another allows a maximum embargo of twelve months, authors must meet the stricter condition (six months), which would satisfy both mandates. For open access licences, the option that will satisfy most conditions will usually be the least restrictive licence.
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 embargo period.
Our free OA funding and policy support service can provide advice on meeting multiple OA policies.
9. Will all Springer Nature journals allow me to meet my policy requirements?
Authors publishing primary research articles in fully open access, Transformative and hybrid journals published on the nature.com platform and by Palgrave Macmillan, as well as BMC and Springer Open journals, are able to comply with all funder and institutional OA policies worldwide.
For all OA and Transformative/hybrid journals, authors should check the journal OA pages for details of the OA options and Creative Commons licence types on offer. Where it is not possible for authors publishing in a hybrid or Transformative journal to meet the funders’ policy requirements by selecting the subscription route (for example, if the journal embargo period exceeds the policy’s specified timeframe for availability), they will need to select the immediate gold OA option. Our Plan S compliance page provides further information on how we are enabling our authors to comply with the requirements of Plan S through gold OA publication.
Our OA funding and policy support service can provide personalised advice to authors who have queries about meeting their OA policy requirements.
10. How can I ensure that my article is eligible for the HEFCE post-2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) when publishing in Springer Nature journals?
In 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. Articles accepted from 1 April 2018 should be deposited within three months of acceptance. Where publishers impose an embargo period, public access to the deposited manuscript may be delayed by up to 12 months for STM research or 24 months for humanities and social science research. For further information, please refer to the full policy.
UK authors publishing in Springer Nature journals can comply with HEFCE’s open access policy by depositing a copy of their accepted manuscript in their institutional repository within three months of acceptance, to be made openly accessible once the embargo period has elapsed. All our journals permit authors to make a 'closed deposit' on acceptance, where a full copy of the article is placed in a repository but not immediately publicly available to read, and our embargo periods are within the limits permitted by HEFCE.
Authors who choose to publish via the immediate (gold) open access route 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.
11. My article has already been published but it does not comply with my institution/funder’s policy. What should I do?
In many cases it will be possible to meet funder and institutional OA policy requirements after the point of publication:
- Manuscript deposition: In cases where the funder or institutional OA policy requires self-archiving or manuscript deposition, authors should check the self-archiving policies of the journal and publisher to confirm what version of the article can be deposited, under what licensing terms, and under what embargo period, and then deposit their manuscript in accordance with the terms of their funder and institutional OA policy if permitted. For more information on manuscript deposition requirements, please see FAQ 6.
- Open access publication: In cases where an article was published via the subscription route but should have been published via the immediate open access route, it may be possible to retrospectively make the article openly available on the journal website if the journal has a gold open access option through Transformative/hybrid journals. Authors should check if the publisher allows articles to be retrospectively made immediately open access and whether the article meets the terms of eligibility. Authors should ensure that they have sufficient funding to cover the APC. For more information on OA publication requirements, please see FAQ 4.
- Licence requirements: In the rare cases where an article has been published open access under a licence that does not meet the funder or institution’s policy requirements, authors should consult the publisher’s policy on changing an open access licence after publication. For more information on license requirements, please see FAQ 5.
For more information on our retrospective open access and changes to Creative Commons licenses policy, please see our journal policies page.
12. My funder or institution has an open data policy. How can I make sure the data in my publication meets their requirements?
Research organisations 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(s) 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 web page. For further advice on the journal policies as well as meeting funders’ data requirements, authors can contact our research data policy 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 OAfundingpolicy@springernature.com.