Open Voices: The state of Open Access at the University of Galway


In this blog post Open Scholarship Librarian Hardy Schwamm looks at progress of Open Access publishing at the University of Galway, ambitions and pathways forward. 

This post aims to summarise where we are with regards to Open Access publishing at the University of Galway and where we are heading in the coming years. As a disclaimer I should say that below relates to our publications in peer-reviewed periodicals and does not cover research published in monographs or educational material.

The state of Open Access at the University of Galway  

Our Open Access ambition(s)

Our ambitions are informed by Open University of Galway, one of the institution’s four strategic values, the Library’s strategic theme of Opening Scholarship and the national Open Access goal (articulated by the National Open Research Forum): “By 2030 Ireland will have implemented a sustainable and inclusive course for achieving 100% open access to research publications.

Clearly, our institutional goal is to publish close to 100% of our outputs Open Access in the coming years.


How Open is our research at the moment?

This question is surprisingly difficult to answer. As a start, we need to know how much our authors publish in peer reviewed journals per year to then establish how much content is available in an Open Access format. The University of Galway uses a CRIS (current research information system) to account for scholarly publications. However, this information is not publicly available. Also, there is no check in place how much of that research output is available Open Access (which is why we need a tool like the National Open Access Monitor).

The next best information source is a third party database of scholarly publications such as Scopus. Since December 2020, Scopus offers Open Access filters that allows four facets of Open Access:

  •           Gold - Published version with Creative Commons license, available on publisher platform. Documents are in journals which only publish open access.
  • Hybrid Gold - Published version with Creative Commons license, available on publisher platform in hybrid journals (i.e. some content behind paywall)
  • Green - Published version or manuscript accepted for publication, available at our institutional repository ARAN or subject repository.
  • Bronze - Published version for which the publisher has chosen to provide temporary or permanent free access (but no permanent Open licence such as Creative Commons)

The issue with databases like Scopus is that they do not offer the complete picture, especially in the Arts & Humanities where coverage is still patchy. Scopus has a defined list of “Sources” and what is outside of that list will not get reported. However, for our purposes Scopus will give an indicative overview.

Below is a table derived from Scopus (accurate 1 July 2023) showing us details of how much the University of Galway publishes in total, how much of that is Open Access and which type of Open Access is being used. Please note that a publication can appear in more than one OA category, e.g. an article can be published as Gold OA at a publisher’s website but also deposited in a repository (Green OA).


Total publications

OA number total

Total rate of OA

Gold OA

Hybrid OA

Green OA












































What do we learn from the above numbers?

The following stands out:

  •          The University of Galway keeps producing more publications in peer-reviewed journals. The growth rate is comparable to the overall increase in scientific publications, looking at global numbers in the database Dimensions. This means we see locally a similar trend as in the wider research environment. To illustrate that trend: while the publication numbers at the University of Galway grew by approx. 31% 2018-2022, globally the total number of scientific publications grew by 28% (from 5.4 million to just over 7 million per year).
  • There is a visible jump in the Open Access rate from 2019/2020. One reason for that might be the Open Access agreement with Elsevier which started in 2020. Stronger Open Access funder mandates from 2020 on driven by cOAlition S might be another reason.
  • The growth in Open Access publishing is driven by Hybrid OA (increased 5.7 times from 2018 to 2022) and Gold Open Access (increased 2.2 times). Green and Bronze Open Access seem more or less stagnant.


Impact of Open Access Agreements

Since 2020, University of Galway authors benefit from the Open Access agreements facilitated by IReL. More than 20 agreements are in place including the “Big Five” (Elsevier, Springer, Wiley, Taylor & Francis, Sage), putting IReL firmly in the global Top 10 when it comes to Open Access agreements with publishers.

How many University of Galway publications have been supported by one of the Open Access agreements? We have data for the last two years:

  •           2021: 328 publications
  • 2022: 390 publications

 We expect numbers for subsequent years to go up slightly but without further agreements or expansion of existing ones (some agreements have a limited allocation and demand is higher than funding) these agreements will be helpful (covering about 20% of the institution’s publications) but it is not a silver bullet to get us to 100% Open Access.


The future of Open Access agreements

There is currently a debate about the future of Open Access agreements with publishers (so called Transformative Agreements). Do they provide value for money? Are they actually “transformative”? Do they have unintended consequences? You can read our Open Voices interview with Malavika Legge from OASPA who argues that Open Access agreements have to become more equitable to really “transform” the publishing landscape.

IReL have recently committed to “a cost neutral and equitable transition to full open access” and will pursue that as a guiding principle in upcoming negotiations with publishers.  A renewal of an Open Access agreement with Springer by Jisc in the UK in June was met with a muted response by many institutions and OA supporters who have to acknowledge the “inability to achieve truly transformative terms” with big publishers. It looks like Open Access agreements will not grow by the rate necessary to push our Open Access rate closer to anywhere above 70%. Other strategies need to be considered.


How do we get to 100% Open Access?

It is clear now that there is no single solution to achieve comprehensive Open Access. It is generally acknowledged that we need several routes that work in different contexts and research areas. This will also enable bibliodiversity as part of “an inclusive and diverse scholarly communication landscape”.

Part of this bibliodiverse Open Access need to be:

·         Diamond Open Access: This OA model can be summarised by the principle: no fees for authors or readers. Costs are covered by funders, charities or libraries, or by a combination of those on a not-for-profit basis. There are many initiatives looking at this model (DIAMAS, the Open Library of Humanities, but the main issue with Diamond OA (apart from establishing sustainable funding) seems to be how to make them attractive to researchers who are currently incentivised to publish in “high impact” outlets.

·         More immediate Open Access of the Author Accepted Manuscript via repositories (=Green Open Access) without embargoes. This will be enabled through a Rights Retention Strategy and an updated institutional Open Access policy. 

·         Read & Publish agreements where libraries via institutional funds contribute to publishers’ costs by arranging “Open Access agreements”. These agreements need to cover 100% of the University of Galway’s output with a publisher (and not 50% or 70% like some current agreements.


Conclusions (?)

Significant progress has been made with regards to Open Access publishing, not only in terms of Open Access output, but also in terms of awareness and policies such as the National Action Plan for Open Research. However, the goal of achieving 100% by 2030 seems impossible with just sticking to current strategies.

We have learned in the past few years that we need multiple pathways to Open Access that work for different areas of research and are cost-effective.

One pathway that needs to be investigated is the Rights Retention Strategy. It might be an important pillar to complement existing Open Access pathways. A Rights Retention Strategy allows authors to keep the rights to their work and ensures that the university can make the Author Accepted Manuscript available immediately open access. In practice, authors add a Rights Retention statement to the Acknowledgment section and inform the publisher of their intentions. We hope that an upcoming NORF project will investigate how this will best work in the Irish context.

·         The target of 100% Open Access sounds good as an ambition but we need achievable interim targets that push the current OA rate up and lets us check on milestones. For example, Sweden has a target of 80% Open Access by 2026. This allows monitoring success of interventions such as transformative agreements or NORF projects such as the proposed national Diamond Open Access platform.


If you have questions or comments on the opinion piece above please email Hardy is also active on LinkedIn, Twitter and Mastodon. Thanks go to John Cox for his valuable feedback on this post.