CIRCLE Open Access Publication Guidance

Under the terms of your award, you must produce at least one research article based on the study conducted during your fellowship and submit it for publication in an internationally-recognised peer-reviewed journal.

In order to promote the widest-possible dissemination of your research, and to maximise its impact, the Open and Enhanced Access Policy of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) also requires that any article you produce should be published open access (OA).

OA can bring benefits to you too, by increasing the visibility of your work and thus helping you to progress in your career. It can also help you to reach wider audiences, beyond your own subject field, and people outside academia. This is particularly important if you want to influence policy-makers and practitioners. Nor does OA imply any reduction in quality or status: over 70% of the journals covered in the major index SCOPUS offer a ‘Gold’ OA option; and nearly all journals provide a ‘Green’ option. Many OA and hybrid journals – and the articles they publish – enjoy high citation scores.

This guide outlines the steps you must take, and the issues you must consider, in deciding where and how to publish the results of your research. You may also wish to consult the DFID guide to the implementation of its access policy. You should also consult the separate guide on how to manage and provide access to the data you collect or create during your fellowship. You must under the terms of your award make clear in the body of any published article how readers can gain access to the underlying data.

What is Open Access?

OA means making your articles available online, in a digital format, at no charge to the reader and with limited restrictions on re-use (preferably no restrictions at all beyond a requirement to acknowledge you as the author of the article). There are two ways of making your article OA:

  • Gold OA, where the final published version of your article is made accessible via the publisher’s website to anyone, free of charge, as soon as it is published; or
  • Green OA, where you deposit a version of your article –  which may be either the version you submitted to the journal, or the version amended by you and accepted by the journal after peer review, or the final published version  – in an open access repository where it is accessible free of charge to readers.

Under the terms of your award, Gold OA is the preferred route. This may require you to pay a fee – usually called an article processing charge (APC) - to the publisher. CIRCLE fellows can submit a request for funds of up to $2,000 if you are a post-doctoral fellow, and $1,500 if you a post-Masters fellow, to meet the costs of such charges (see Annex A).

But some journals do not provide you with a Gold OA option. Hence Green OA (sometimes referred to as “self-archiving”) is an acceptable option under the terms of your award if you cannot identify a Gold OA journal suitable for the publication of your article. In that case, no APC or other charge will be levied by the publisher.
Identifying internationally-recognised peer-reviewed journals

It is important that you should think carefully about the possible journals in which you may wish to publish your work. Over 2 million articles are published each year in over 27,000 journals; and more journals are launched every week. No author or reader can keep up with all of them. You will want to publish your article in a journal where it will achieve the maximum readership and impact, and you will thus receive the greatest credit for your work. Hence you must identify those journals which cover your field of work, and articles of the kind you wish to publish.

Types of Open Access Journal:

Gold Open Access:

The next step is to identify which of the journals on your list offer a Gold OA option. There are three kinds of such journals:

  • Fully-Gold OA journals in which all the articles are OA, and which charge an APC to meet their costs. Such journals include those published by the Public Library of Science (PLOS) and the BioMedCentral imprint of Springer Nature; but all the major international publishers, and many learned societies, now publish such journals. You will find a comprehensive list in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).
  • Fully-Gold OA journals similar to those above, but which do not charge an APC. Instead they meet their costs by other means, such as grants or sponsorship by other organisations. Again, you can find them listed in the DOAJ.
  • Hybrid journals, which are journals which operate both on the traditional subscription model (where either readers or their institutions have to pay to get access to the contents) and on the Gold OA model. Thus they offer authors the option to pay an APC in order to make their articles OA immediately they are published. A recent study found that half the journals in the world are hybrid in this way, but there is no central list of them: you have to check on the journal’s website.

For preference, Open and Enhanced Access Policy encourages publication in a fully-Gold OA journal. But there may not be one that is appropriate to your needs, in which case you should look for a suitable hybrid journal.

The amounts charged as APCs vary hugely between publishers and individual journals. For some journals, the charge may be as low as $300-$400. But for some very-high-status journals, charges can be as high as $6,000 or more. Many institutions in the UK have found that payments average between $2,000 and $3,000. Charges for hybrid journals – most of which are long-established and tend to be of higher status – are on average higher than for fully-OA journals.

As noted above, there are fully-OA journals that do not charge any APC at all. And many fully-Gold OA journals that do usually charge an APC offer to waive any payment for authors from less-developed countries. Policies vary as between publishers and journals, and you should check this on the journal website. If the journal does provide a waiver for authors in your circumstances, you should take up that offer. Hybrid journals do not offer waivers, however, since their default is to accept articles that will be published under the traditional subscription model (that is, not on Gold OA terms at all).

‘Delayed OA’ journals
A relatively small number of journals – mostly high-status ones – do not offer an immediate Gold OA option, and operate wholly on the traditional subscription model. But they make all the articles they publish accessible free of charge on the journal’s website after an embargo period. There are usually some remaining restrictions on the use that can be made of the articles (see under Copyright and licensing below) and the length of the embargo prescribed by such journals generally varies from between six to 24 months. Under the terms of your award, embargo periods should be no longer than six months; but if you wish to publish in a journal with a longer embargo period, you should consult the ACU.

Green OA
You may find that the journal in which you wish to publish your article does not provide a Gold OA option; or that the levels of APC are higher than you can afford. In order to meet the terms of your award, you must in that case deposit a digital version of your article in the Department for International Development’s Research for Development (R4D) repository, under  the condition that it can be made accessible via R4D to anyone, free of charge, within six months of its being published (remembering that articles are often published online under an ‘early view’ or similar banner before they are included in a print edition of the journal). So you must check the policies of your preferred journals relating to your ability to deposit your article in an OA repository (often termed “self-archiving”). Again, if your preferred journal requires a longer embargo period, you should consult the ACU.

A useful starting point in searching for information of this kind is the SHERPA RoMEO  service; but you should also check the website of the individual journal concerned. Publishers’ and journals’ policies vary according to:

  • The version of the article you can deposit: the original version you submitted (sometimes called a “pre-print”); the version accepted by the journal after peer review (often called the “authors’ accepted manuscript”); or the final published version, as presented in the journal itself (often called the “version of record”).
  • The nature of the repository in which you wish to deposit your article and make it accessible: your own or a departmental website; an institutional repository; the repository run by another organisation, including a funding agency; or a commercially-run repository such as ResearchGate.
  • The embargo period: that is the delay after publication before your article can be made generally accessible, free of charge.

Publishers usually also require that articles made accessible via any repository are accompanied by metadata, statements and hyperlinks – and usually a permanent stable link in the form of a digital object identifier (DOI) issued by CrossRef - making clear where the published version of the article may be found.

In general, you are likely to find that publishers’ policies become more restrictive as they move from pre-prints to accepted manuscripts and versions of record; and from personal websites to institutional, subject-based and commercial repositories. Under the terms of your award you must ensure that you can deposit either the post-peer-review “authors’ accepted manuscript” or the final published “version of record” in the R4D repository.  No version from earlier in the process from submission to publication is acceptable. You must submit either the accepted manuscript or the version of record to the R4D repository in PDF format, and make sure that you can make it accessible within six months of its first being published (including early publication online). If for any reason you cannot make either of these two versions accessible within six months, you must contact the ACU to seek an exemption from the policy requirement, with a full explanation.

You are also encouraged to deposit a version of your article and to make it freely accessible via other appropriate repositories – such as your own institutional repository - in addition to the R4D repository. The Directory of Open Access Repositories (Open DOAR) provides a quality-assured and searchable listing of institutional and subject-based repositories from across the world.

Journals providing immediate access in developing countries

If you are following the Green OA route, you should give preference to journals that provide through  various  schemes immediate access free of charge to institutions in developing countries. The largest of these schemes is the Research 4 Life  programme run jointly by various UN agencies and the Association of Scientific Technical and Medical Publishers:

  • HINARI for biomedical and health-related research
  • AGORA for food, agriculture, environmental science and related social sciences
  • OARE for environmental research
  • ARDI for physical sciences and technology.

Similar but smaller schemes are run by other organisations including INASPEIFL, and the Association of Commonwealth Universities’ Low Cost Journals Scheme.
The journals covered by these schemes change regularly, and so you should check the relevant Research 4 Life programme to see if the journals in which you are interested are currently included.


In order to ensure that your article is as visible as possible, and to maximise its impact, you should make sure that it is accompanied by high-quality metadata. And in all cases, even if your article is published and freely accessible under Gold OA terms, you should submit a full metadata record to the R4D repository. The metadata fields to be provided – including a reference to the CIRCLE programme and the reference for your individual award - are set out on pages 2-3 of theR4D Editorial Policy.

Copyright and licensing

Copyright is the system which allows you to protect your work and prevent others from using it without your permission. In most countries, you will as author be the first owner of the copyright in any article you write. But it may be that under the terms of your contract of employment your university will own the copyright of any work that you create in the course of your employment. You should check with your university administration on this point, and any implications that may follow.

If you publish a Gold OA article, most publishers will allow – or require – you to use a Creative Commons licence; and these are the preferred licences under the terms of your award. We encourage the use of the most ‘open’ of the Creative Commons licences generally used by publishers: the Attribution (CCBY) licence, which allows others to distribute, re-use and build on your work, even commercially, as long as they give explicit credit to you as the original author. Other Creative Commons licences put other restrictions on the re-use of your work, by restricting any commercial use, forbidding the creation of works derived from your original, and/or imposing a requirement that any new works should make use of the same licence. We discourage the use of the most restrictive licence which restricts commercial use and the creation of derivatives (CCBY-NC-ND). You may find it useful to read this Guide to the pros and cons of different Creative Commons licences.

If you do not publish your article under Gold OA terms, many publishers will ask or require you to assign the copyright in your article to them. This enables the publisher to act as the steward of your work, and to defend your article against copyright infringement. As an alternative, you may be offered the option to retain your own copyright in the article, and to provide for the publisher a licence to publish. Such a licence may be exclusive or non-exclusive, and may or may not be time-limited. You may wish to take professional advice on the terms of any licence, which may, for instance, still restrict your ability to make a version of your article accessible via a repository. 

Acknowledgement of funding support

You must include in any article an acknowledgment of the support you have received via the CIRCLE programme and the UK Government. Many publishers make provision for such acknowledgement in their online systems under which you submit your article for publication. You should thus include the following statement:

This work was supported under the CIRCLE Visiting Fellowship programme funded by the UK Department for International Development. Neither the findings nor the views expressed, however, necessarily reflect the policies of the UK Government.

Publication ethics

Major journals and publishers are committed to promoting and sustaining high ethical standards both in the conduct of research, and in the publication of research results and findings. You will therefore usually be required before submitting your article to a journal to assure the editors on issues including:

  • That where necessary you have secured ethical approval for your work, and adhered to appropriate ethical guidelines in the conduct of your research, especially where it has involved human or animal subjects;
  • That as an author or co-author, you share responsibility and accountability for the content of your article; that those listed as authors have made a significant contribution to the work; and that anyone actively involved in writing the paper has been included in the list of authors;
  • That your article – or a substantial proportion of it - has not been published elsewhere (thus avoiding “self-plagiarism” or “dual publication”);
  • That your work is original and undertaken by you, and that where material is taken from other sources (including your own published writing) the source is clearly cited and that you have obtained any necessary permissions. Many publishers use CrossCheck to check for material that has already been published elsewhere, and they treat any suspicion of plagiarism very seriously;
  • That your data has been created or collected by you; that where it was created by third parties you have permission to use it; that is accurate and complete, and has not been falsified or fabricated, nor inappropriately manipulated;
  • That you declare any relevant financial or non-financial interests or relationships that might be considered likely to affect the interpretation of your findings or that editors, reviewers, or readers might reasonably wish to know.

You may wish to consult the guidelines issued by major publishers such as Oxford University PressSAGE, or Taylor and Francis; and the detailed guidance for all those involved in scholarly publishing, including editors and peer reviewers, issued by the Committee on Publication Ethics.

If you are in doubt on any of these points you should consult your supervisor, specialist advisor or mentor. You should be aware that if you breach any of the ethical principles outlined in this Section, this will be reported to your home and host institution, your fellowship may be terminated, and you may be liable to repay some of your funding.
Publishing in local journals and working paper series

We want you to maximise the impact of your work by publishing in internationally-recognised peer-reviewed journals. But it may also be appropriate to publish some of your work – so long as it does not breach the “dual publication” rule – in local journals or working paper series, and in local languages, in order to meet the needs of local audiences. In such cases, we should expect the work to be peer reviewed; and it should be made OA by either the Gold or the Green route as outlined above. Whichever route is chosen, at the least a metadata record should be deposited in the R4D repository (see under “Discoverability” above).

Open Access Publishing Checklist: Key questions and decisions