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Scholarly Metrics & Altmetrics: Open Access

Tools for measuring scholarly impact, journal impact factors, altmetrics, and managing your scholarly identity.

Challenge 3 - Make Your Work Open Access

Today, we're going to explore making your work Open Access. Making your work Open Access - or free to read and often licensed so that it can be reused by others - helps ensure that all scholars out there can discover and read it (and hopefully cite it!). Dozens of studies have shown that making your work Open Access helps increase citations to it. Taking steps to make your work Open Access can also help ensure people find some forms of scholarship that might not be easily shared, such as conference posters.

What It Is

The term Open Access was first officially proposed 20 years ago, although some disciplines have practiced it for even longer. Advocates for Open Access have wanted to ensure everyone has access to scientific and scholarly research - not just those fortunate enough to work at an institution that can afford to subscribe to scholarly journals. 

There's different ways to make your work Open Access. You can publish in a journal that makes all its content Open Access or you can pay to make your article Open Access in most paywalled journals. But another option is to upload a version of work to an open database. This option is particularly helpful for research outputs that were never really published in a traditional sense, such as white papers, data sets, and conference presentations. 

What To Do

This week's challenge is to identify one or two open databases that would be a good place for your work, either now or in the future. You have lots of options for where to upload a copy of your work to make it Open Access. There are literally hundreds of open repositories based on disciplines. Some of the more common ones include:

  • arXiv - Physics and computer science
  • bioRxiv - Biology and life sciences
  • medRxiv - Health sciences

To find more, you can search the OpenDOAR database, which includes more than 3,000 options. We suggest doing an advanced search, which will allow you to search by disciplinary areas as well as research output type.

Can't find one that fits your specific needs? There are several options that are disciplinary neutral. Here are some we recommend:

  • Zenodo - this repository, run by a not-for-profit in Europe, allows for free uploads of files up to 50 GB. We also like it because it will give your work a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) if it doesn't already have one. DOIs are important for tracking usage of your work. 
  • figshare - Operated by the company Digital Science, figshare is also a popular repository.
  • ScholarWorks - UNR's own repository. You'll need to email to set up an account.

What To Look For

Repositories often offer different features and rules for what they allow in, so it's important to think about what's important for you:

  • Is it free to upload?
  • Is it crawled by Google Scholar? You want your work found, so do a trial run of an article in the database you're considering to see if Google Scholar finds it.
  • Do they guarantee they'll preserve your work? For how long?
  • Are there size limitations? This is especially important if uploading large datasets.
  • What licenses do they offer/require for your work? Many will prompt you to use a Creative Commons license for your work, which allows others to reuse your work according to the terms you set.


Once you've identified a repository, consider uploading something to it! As we noted before, you can upload conference presentation slides, a poster, datasets, or even a journal article. If the article has already been published, you might want to check out the journal's policies to see what they allow you to upload if you signed away your copyright. Many journals are OK with you uploading the accepted version, but not the final published version. Some will also require an embargo of anywhere from a few months to a few years. If you're not sure what your journal's policy is, check with your subject librarian

You can also consider uploading your article before you've submitted it to a journal. These are called preprints and are becoming more common with Covid-19 and the necessity of getting information out there as quickly as possible. Many journals do not consider this prior publication, but we encourage you to check the websites of potential journals you might want to publish with to see what they say. If it's not clear, you can always email the editors to ask. The benefits of uploading preprints is to ensure your information is getting out to others that can use it ASAP. It also allows others to provide you with feedback.

Finally, check out the Directory of Open Access Journals to look for journals that publish all of their articles as Open Access. Some of these journals - including PLOS One - do charge authors a fee to publish, but many of them do not. If it's between paying a fee vs. just submitting a version of your article to open repository for free, we always recommend the latter option (unless you're fortunate enough to have a grant that will pay the fee).

ResearchGate and

ResearchGate and are both what we call academic social media sites, and one of their features is they allow you to share your work with others. You can certainly upload your work with them, but we would also encourage you to consider another repository as well. Both are owned by for-profit companies and make no promises about how long they'll actually keep your work up. They're also notorious for hosting illegal copies of articles (remember how we said most paywalled journals don't like you sharing the final, published version?) and some publishers have started going after these sites with cease and desist letters that have resulted in thousands of articles being taken down. But if you follow the rules, they can work for this as well.