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Key scholarly publishing terms: a beginner's guide

Updated: Feb 5

As the common saying goes, the expert in anything was once a beginner. That's also the case for scholarly publishing. Keeping up to date with ever-changing terms and definitions is something we can all struggle to find time for.

After joining the industry earlier this year, I was learning the difference between green open access and gold open access, the meaning of altmetrics, and pretty much anything in between.

We are here to help you demystify some standard terms and jargon in scholarly publishing. This is a handy post if you're new to the industry (or just want a refresher!)

How can you enrich your scholarly publishing knowledge? Discover our comprehensive list of scholarly publishing terms to stay in the know with industry terminology.

A young boy wearing glasses who is lying on a tiled floor reading a book, surrounded by bookshelves filled with books


Alternative metrics. They are alternatives to traditional metrics for tracking the impact and reach of scholarly research.

Article Processing Charges (APCs)

Some publishers have a publication charge that needs to be paid before content can be published open access – this is an Article Processing Charge, or APC for short. Once an APC is paid, the article is made open access upon publication.


The Confederation of Open Access Repositories. This is a network of open access repositories.

cOAlition S

cOAlition S is 'an initiative to make full and immediate open access to research publications a reality.' It supports Plan S.


Commissioning is a process in which an author is sought out for their expertise in a subject area to create published content on a given topic.


The Directory of Open Access Journals. An index of open access journals from around the world.


The Declaration on Research Assessment. DORA ‘recognizes the need to improve the ways in which researchers and the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated.’ It is dedicated to changing the way in which research is assessed, from methods like the Journal Impact Factors to other, qualitative methods.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

A number assigned by a registration agency to different kinds of content. Provides a URL for online published content, giving them a unique ID. Discover more about DOIs in our Done in 60 Seconds podcast episode.

Embargo period

Content is put behind a paywall for a set amount of time. After the amount of time agreed by the publisher and the author, the work is open access.

Journal Impact Factor (JIF)

A scientometric index calculated by Clarivate. It is calculated by ‘dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years.’ It's often used as a metric to assess the prestige and success of a journal. Journals with a higher number of citations and a higher JIF are sometimes considered to be more prestigious, but this is an often contested issue.

Open Access (OA)

Open access (OA) publishing is when you publish a book, article or another kind of publication that is free to all at the point of access. When your article or book is published, everyone will get instant access to it immediately without needing to pay for it. There are several different kinds of OA publishing:

Platinum OA

Also referred to as Diamond or Universal, where you are not charged to publish OA.

Gold OA

Your processing charges are funded by organizations, institutions, or funders.

Green OA

You place a self-archived copy of the publication in your repository for sharing.

Delayed OA

It has an embargo – e.g. 6 or 12 months.

Open research

Open research involves opening up knowledge and research for all to access, widening the opportunities for dissemination and discovery.

Open collaboration

A way of working as a group in which everyone can freely share ideas and work together to meet an aligned goal. The outcome is creating better products and ideas through collaboration.

Open data

Open data is any scholarly data that anyone can access, use, and edit. The data is not behind a paywall and can be used by the general public. You can learn more about the types of open data through the Open Data Handbook.

Open practices

Scholarly practices that are open, including transparent practices, collaboration, recognition and reward.

Peer Review

When the first draft of their journal article or book is finished, authors submit their article for peer review as one of the first steps in the publication process. As part of this process, other authors and researchers in the same subject area will review the manuscript and provide feedback to the author.

Plan S

A movement launched by Science Europe that requires those who publish their work with help from publicly funded research institutions and organizations to publish their work in open access compliant journals by 1 January 2020. It's supported by cOAlition S.

Predatory open access publishing

This is the process of a journal taking a person's APC to publish open access without providing the relevant editorial and publishing support required to make a good quality open access article. You can learn more about predatory publishing in Simon Linacre's The Predator Effect.


A version of a scholarly work that has been submitted for peer review but has yet to undergo the process. It can be helpful when scholarly research needs to be made available quickly before a potentially lengthy peer review process.

Publish and Read

A type of transformative agreement. Publish and Read is an agreement in which the publisher is paid just for the publishing – there is no cost for reading.

Read and Publish

Read and Publish is a transformative agreement between a library and a publisher. In this instance, it allows the library to purchase the content. It enables them to publish open access with one fee that covers publishing and the ability to read content in a given journal.

Transformative agreements

An agreement that 'shift(s) the contracted payment from a library or group of libraries to a publisher away from subscription-based reading and towards open access publishing.'

University press

An extension to an academic institution that publishes content. They're not for profit publishers, and are usually subsidized by their associated institutions. They tend to publish scholarly content including books, journals, audio content and more. They often publish open access content. They tend to be aligned to the mission of the institution but they also work closely with or in the university library.

Version of record

A Version of Record (VOR) is the final published version of a scholarly work. This article will include any editorial improvements made after the peer review process is complete, such as copyediting or typesetting.

There's a lot to learn in the scholarly communications industry, but how do you know where to start? Hopefully our glossary of terms has been helpful in enabling you to understand our industry a little better. If you want to learn more, discover our helpful resources:


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