The perks of repositories: why ‘green’ open access is winning the plea

14 December 2017

​To outsiders, open access may seem a no-brainer. But in academic spheres, the appropriate approach is subject for firm debate. There are roughly two avenues: green open access (self-depositing of articles in a repository), and gold access (journals as distributors). It goes without saying that the first approach is disrupting our current publication model much more, and that the second one is particularly popular among the publishers.

For scientists and institutes like VIB, green open access is, without a doubt, the preferred model. After all, freely available articles in the ‘gold model’ only meet the argument “publicly funded research belongs to the public” partially: in many cases, authors – in practice: their institution or funders – still have to pay publication fees. This means that governments or funders are paying double: for the research itself, and for the publication. In addition, this extra barrier can hamper the direct flow from research output to public knowledge.

Repositories on the rise
The green open-access way relies on repositories, digital databases used to collect and preserve publications and data. There are three types:

  •  Institutional repositories collect the research output of scientific institutions. Depositing is only possible for researchers or authors affiliated with the institution.
  • Subject repositories, or disciplinary repositories, collect the research output of one or several research fields.
  • Data repositories are specialized in collecting and preserving data. Most are subject-based, although some of them collect data from all research areas. They can be found in the registry of data repositories:

Because increasingly more repositories are emerging, there’s also one repository to rule them all: OpenDOAR. To date, it hosts to over 2,600 registered open access repositories.

Universities setting the standards
Another advantage of green open access lies in the accessibility of research output. According to Inge Van Nieuwerburgh (Department of Research Affairs at UGent and open access devotee), everybody profits from the availability of archived results. “A researcher’s or organization’s reputation is, among other things, based on the transparency and acknowledgement of their research. If peers or students hit a paywall when they want to access results, they are less likely to refer to the original output. A repository makes your research
accessible, interoperable and reusable. And because it is optimized to be crawled by Google, the research is easy to find as well.”

A lot of universities are encouraging students and academics to use repositories. “The UGent repository,, is integrated into the academic bibliography,” says Inge. “And it is quite easy for researchers to immediately deposit their publications in other repositories as well, thanks to, for example, easy to use export tools. As a result, a high percentage of UGent publications are submitted to repositories.”

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