RSC: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Open Access?


Impactful initiative from the Royal Society of Chemistry

Born out of the recognition that researchers are often asked to publish OA, but do not necessarily have the funding to do so, the Royal Society of Chemistry came up with Gold for Gold.

Initially piloted in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2012, this initiative rewards all institutions who subscribe to RSC Gold (the Royal Society of Chemistry’s premium online package, comprising 41 international journals, databases and magazines) with voucher codes to publish a selected number of accepted RSC articles Gold Open Access (OA), free of charge.

“With research budgets tight, ensuring that exciting results reach the widest possible audience is often difficult. Allowing open access to my PCCP paper via the Gold for Gold initiative provides an opportunity to promote this research and I am therefore delighted to be the first recommended for this scheme by my School....” Dr Ian Lane, Lecturer in Physical Chemistry, QUB, UK.

Strength to strength

At the beginning of 2013 Gold for Gold went global, and its popularity has soared. All of the world’s top 30 academic institutions subscribe to RSC Gold, entitling them to Gold for Gold voucher codes. Those currently benefiting include: California Institute of Technology, United States; Stanford University, United States; University of Oxford, United Kingdom; University of Toronto, Canada; University of Tokyo, Japan.


A total of 878 Gold for Gold applications from 187 institutions in 26 different countries were made in 2013, with a monthly record number of 184 Gold for Gold applications made in November. Unsurprisingly, due to enhanced awareness, the United Kingdom led the way with 278 Gold for Gold articles, followed by the United S with 100. Other prominent users include Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia.

ChemComm, the largest and fastest publisher of high quality communications within the general chemistry arena, had the highest number of applications in 2013 with 143, followed by Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics and Dalton Transactions.

A thumbs up from researchers and librarians

Gold for Gold has been praised for its simplicity, flexibility and the lack of additional paperwork when it comes to licenses, saving researchers time.

“When my paper was accepted for publication, I contacted our librarian to request a complimentary Gold for Gold voucher; with that in hand the article was soon converted for publication under a Creative Commons OA license. It was that easy and quick to see that our work would be placed in a well-regarded journal, but not locked up behind a pay wall.”  Professor Kit Cummins, MIT, United States and, Associate Editor of Chemical Science.


Librarians have also noted the opportunity this initiative provides to introduce an easy way for  chemistry faculties to experiment with OA. Information specialists in the United States have been particularly proactive here; UCSF, UCLA and Stanford all have web pages dedicated to Gold for Gold.

And what about consortia?

Many institutions from countries throughout the world benefit from receiving Gold for Gold voucher codes as part of an existing consortium deal, but the DFG (German Research Foundation) - RSC Gold license agreement in Germany fulfilled a burning need amongst German researchers to publish Gold OA, representing a very real success story.

In Germany, 87 institutions plus all Max Planck and Fraunhofer Institutes, will profit from more than 900 Gold for Gold voucher codes in 2014. This is the first nationwide deal of its kind and will last for three years. It further reflects demand evidenced by a significant increase in submissions and published articles at the Royal Society of Chemistry in the past six years.

“The Alliance-RSC GOLD License agreement, negotiated with the Royal Society of Chemistry, is innovative. Not only does it offer our users easy access to all RSC journal content, but all participating institutions receive a certain quantity of Open Access (OA) vouchers with which their authors can publish OA free of charge in any RSC journal.” Uwe Rosemann, Director German National Library of Science and Technology and University Library Hannover (TIB/UB), Germany.

For more information on the Gold for Gold scheme, consult your Account Manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Alternatively e-mail

Max Espley, Royal Society of Chemistry