Answered By: Jenny Oleen
Last Updated: Sep 29, 2021     Views: 17


Open Access is the outcome of making research and scholarship freely and openly available to any user. There are a number of benefits to making your work open. Articles that are not behind a paywall will be read more than those that are. This wider readership leads to the potential for a citation advantage for open access research over toll access readership. Open Access to research helps uphold Western Washington University’s Mission to serve the people of Washington and commitment to equity, through making research and scholarship from Western available to all, regardless of their ability to pay a journal subscription. 

There are a variety of business models that can lead to the outcome of open access. Ultimately, there are costs associated with publishing, and they have to be paid for by someone. The different approaches to Open Access acknowledge that, while also trying to work beyond the traditional system. These approaches are known as:

Green Open Access

One of the easiest ways to pursue an open outcome for your work, is to publish as you typically would, in your journal of choice. But review the contract you’re asked to sign to determine what rights you retain as an author. Many journals will allow a version of the article, most often the penultimate version--that is the final peer-reviewed, revised version just prior to final typesetting for the journal--to be placed in an institutional repository such as Western CEDAR or a disciplinary repository like Arxiv or AgEcon Search. These contracts typically use dense legal language, so feel free to contact the Scholarly Communication and Copyright Librarian for help deciphering them.

Gold Open Access

Another option is to publish in journals that are Open Access themselves, such as journals like the Journal of Educational Controversy or PLOS Biology. These journals work with an alternative business model to ensure that articles are published freely and openly, without subscription based barriers to access. 

There are three variations of alternative business models used for Gold Open Access journals:


APCs, or Article Processing Charges, are a way to move the cost of publication from the readers/subscribers to the content creators/authors. This business model puts the onus on the researcher to make intentional decisions to publish their work open access and ensure they have the funds to do so, sometimes even before the research has started by incorporating such plans into grant applications. As such, the utilization of this business model is more predominant in BioMed (76% of OA journals have fees) and STEM (77% of OA journals have fees), fields where grants are more heavily utilized for research. 


Hybrid APC

While the hybrid article processing charge model can be used to make research open access, it is important to note that this is at the individual article level in otherwise subscription based journals. As such, an issue in its entirety is not OA, just the few articles that authors have paid the APC for. This has led to concerns about “Double Dipping”, as while publishers state that list prices are adjusted reflect the open access nature of some articles, the process behind calculating subscription prices, the utilization of “Big Deal” packages (including, oftentimes non-disclosure agreements to prevent sharing of package information), and behind the calculation of APCs are all opaque.



Just as some alternative business models place the fees for publication on the authors, the subsidized model looks even further afield for financial support. These journals are typically subsidized by other entities, such as universities or societies providing free platforms to the journals, or personnel donating their time to the journal.  This business model is more predominant in the Humanities and Social Sciences (76% of OA journals don’t have author fees).

It’s important to remember that Open Access is the intended outcome, with many different routes available to get to that outcome. What works best for some, may be untenable for others. Some authors may feel it is more important for their work to be Open Access from the outset, while other authors may feel it is more important for their work to be published in those journals recommended for tenure and promotion in their discipline. So long as the final outcome is Open Access, what matters most is for authors to choose the route that works best for them.

For more information, or with questions about Open Access, please contact the Scholarly Communications Librarian, Jenny Oleen.