Open Access

Last week was Open Access Week, which is celebrated to provide an opportunity for the academic and research community to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, and to help inspire the scholarly community to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.


Open Access (OA) has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship. Research funding agencies, academic institutions, researchers and scientists, teachers, students, and members of the general public are supporting a move towards Open Access in increasing numbers every year. The Copyright Support Team will be observing OA Week by sending daily short email messages about key aspects of Open Access Week for you to share with your faculty.


Below is a short introduction to Open Access, used with permission.


Open Access:  A Very Brief Introduction to by Peter Suber


Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder.


OA is entirely compatible with peer review, and all the major OA initiatives for scientific and scholarly literature insist on its importance. Just as authors of journal articles donate their labor, so do most journal editors and referees participating in peer review.


OA literature is not free to produce, even if it is less expensive to produce than conventionally published literature. The question is not whether scholarly literature can be made costless, but whether there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating access barriers. Business models for paying the bills depend on how OA is delivered.


There are two primary vehicles for delivering OA to research articles:  OA journals and OA archives or repositories.


OA Archives or repositories:


OA archives or repositories do not perform peer review, but simply make their contents freely available to the world. They may contain unrefereed preprints, refereed postprints, or both.


Archives may belong to institutions, such as universities and laboratories, or disciplines, such as physics and economics.


Authors may archive their preprints without anyone else’s permission, and a majority of journals already permit authors to archive their postprints. When archives comply with the metadata harvesting protocol of the Open Archives Initiative, then they are interoperable and users can find their contents without knowing which archives exist, where they are located, or what they contain. There is now open-source software for building and maintaining OAI-compliant archives and worldwide momentum for using it. The costs of an archive are negligible: some server space and a fraction of the time of a technician.


OA Journals:


OA journals perform peer review and then make the approved contents freely available to the world. Their expenses consist of peer review, manuscript preparation, and server space.


OA journals pay their bills very much the way broadcast television and radio stations do: those with an interest in disseminating the content pay the production costs upfront so that access can be free of charge for everyone with the right equipment. Sometimes this means that journals have a subsidy from the hosting university or professional society. Sometimes it means that journals charge a processing fee on accepted articles, to be paid by the author or the author’s sponsor (employer, funding agency).


OA journals that charge processing fees usually waive them in cases of economic hardship.


OA journals with institutional subsidies tend to charge no processing fees.


OA journals can get by on lower subsidies or fees if they have income from other publications, advertising, priced add-ons, or auxiliary services. Some institutions and consortia arrange fee discounts. Some OA publishers waive the fee for all researchers affiliated with institutions that have purchased an annual membership. There’s a lot of room for creativity in finding ways to pay the costs of a peer-reviewed OA journal, and we’re far from having exhausted our cleverness and imagination.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.


Research Funder Open Access (OA) mandates:


Many of you are aware that the NIH has had an open access policy for published peer-reviewed articles resulting from its funded research in place since 2008, but for a time it was the only US federal agency to have one.  In February 2013, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a policy memorandum as a direct response to popular petition on the site.  The Memorandum was directed at science agencies with $100 million or more in annual research funding, such as the NSF and the Department of Defense.  All agencies falling under the OSTP Open Access Directive were instructed to work with their individual research communities to come up with a plan to make the results of research funded by these agencies available to the public.  This policy covers peer-researched published articles as well as the research data supporting the publications.  In addition to requiring public access to the data and published research, the OSTP Memorandum requires that any proposed solution maximize the reuse of publicly funded research, allowing the public “to read, download, and analyze in digital form” the text and data of publicly-funded research.


Some agencies not falling under the directive, such as the NEH, have announced plans to bring their policies into compliance with this policy as well.


The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill also included some provisions relating to OA mandates, requiring federal agencies under the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education departments with research budgets of $100 or more to provide public access to articles no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


Legislation in committee, FASTR (Fair Access to Science and Technology), also addresses the science agencies affected by the OSTP directive and some additional agencies, with similar provisions. The agencies covered between the OSTP memo and the Omnibus Appropriations bill account for just over half of the total funded research by the US government.


Last August, the Department of Energy was the first agency falling under the OSTP directive to announce its plans.  The DOE has unveiled the PAGES website (Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science), a collection of metadata and links to PDFs of DOE-funded peer-reviewed published articles, which are to appear within 12 months of their publication.  The links go to the published articles on the publisher websites.  In addition, all proposals for research funding to the DOE’s Office of Science will be required to include a data management plan that describes whether and how the research data generated in the course of the proposed research will be shared and preserved.  This is similar to the data management plan requirements of the NSF, which has been in place since January 2011.


Note that many private funders are looking at similar policies, as a way to more fully leverage their research support, so anyone who does sponsored research in any discipline may be seeing similar policies from their funders in future.



The University Libraries have put together some guides to these policies for faculty:


COMPLIANCE: NIH Open Access Policy

Data Management for Grant Seekers



To the Copyright Advocates:



We continued our observance of Open Access Week with a video from Tim Berners-Lee, renowned as the inventor of the World Wide Web.  In a short (five-minute) TED Talk from 2010, he demonstrates what can happen when governments, institutions, and researchers make their data openly available on the web. 


Submitted by Carolyn Thompson