Open Access FAQ

Open access means free online (public) access to scholarly material.  Those who want to access and read the material can do so at no charge.  For a quick introduction, watch Open Access Explained (above), an 8 minute video from Nick Shokey and Jonathan Eisen published October 2012 at PhD comics.

 

Open access facilitates discovery, broadens access, and increases use, citation, and impact of scholarly work, which can affect promotion, tenure, and funding.  Depending on the discipline, open access increases citations from 40% to 250%.  A summary of studies of the citation impact of open access is available from the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook. More people can find and read work available open access than work available behind a subscription pay wall, including academics in developing countries or at institutions with limited funds, independent scholars, and the general public.  Taxpayers should have free online access to articles reporting the results of research funded with their tax dollars.

Open access also helps create an online presence and identity for the author.  Having an online presence and identity is critical in the digital era, particularly for graduate students. Prospective employers will search the names of recent graduates and make decisions based on the search results.  Faculty should model and impress upon graduate students the importance of creating and managing an online presence and identity.

Green open access is making your work freely available on the web by posting it to a website or, preferably, depositing it in a disciplinary or institutional repository, a practice known as self-archiving.  Most publishers allow authors to self-archive their submitted or final (peer-reviewed) manuscript.  Some impose an embargo period (delay) between publication and self-archiving.  No publishers levy a fee for author self-archiving.

Repositories are preferable to websites because they are more stable and committed to long-term preservation, i.e., work deposited in a repository will be migrated to new formats and systems as they evolve over time.  Work posted to a website often disappears or becomes inaccessible.  Websites are deleted when the faculty member leaves the institution; work becomes inaccessible when the format becomes obsolete. 

Carnegie Mellon's open access repository is Research Showcase.  The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) provides a list of repositories worldwide.  Lists of Disciplinary Repositories and Data Repositories are also available in the Open Access Directory

Gold open access is making your work freely available on the web by publishing it in a journal that provides open access.  The final published version of the work will be freely available on the publisher’s website immediately upon publication.  Gold open access can be achieved by publishing in either an open access journal or a hybrid journal.

Open access journals make all articles available open access.  The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) provides a list of quality open access journals.  Some open access journals require authors or their institution or funding agency to pay an Article Processing Charge for each article published. 

Hybrid journals are traditional subscription (restricted access) journals that offer an option to make articles available open access upon payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC).  Only those articles whose authors (or their institution or funding agency) paid the APC are available open access.

Gratis open access removes price barriers to access, but all copyright restrictions remain in effect.  Most open access resources are gratis open access.

Libre open access removes both price barriers and unnecessary copyright restrictions, typically by attaching a Creative Commons license to signal what permissions the copyright owner grants the user.  Increasingly materials are becoming libre open access. 

Open access affects readers and authors of scholarly work.  Open access enables readers to obtain work they might otherwise not be able to access because of price barriers.  Open access enables authors to increase the visibility, use, and impact of their work.  Because of these benefits, many institutions and funding agencies worldwide require open access to the peer-reviewed results of research they fund.  See Public Access Mandates.

There are two paths to make your work available open access.  You can publish in an open access or hybrid journal; this is known as the gold route to open access.  Or you can deposit (self-archive) your work in an open access repository; this is known as the green route to open access.  Some publishers only support green, others only support gold, and some support both.  The SHERPA RoMEO database provides easy access to publisher policies on green open access.

In the context of open access, an embargo period is a delay between publication of a work and when the work becomes available open access.  During the embargo period, access to the work is restricted to those who have paid for access, typically through an institutional subscription. 

Publishers impose embargos to protect their revenue from subscriptions.  Public (open) access mandates typically specify a maximum allowable embargo period.  See Public Access Mandates.

The pre-print version of a work has not been peer-reviewed.  A pre-print could be an early draft of a work or the version submitted for peer review. 

The post-print version of a work has been peer-reviewed and revised based on reviewer comments.  A post-print may or may not include formatting, layout, pagination, or changes made by copy editors.  Most publishers prohibit authors from self-archiving the published version (the publisher's PDF).  Public access mandates typically call for the author’s final, peer reviewed manuscript to be made available open access.  See Public Access Mandates.

For many years, public access advocacy and mandates have focused on providing open access to journal articles and conference papers.  More recently, scholarly monographs are being published open access and mandates increasingly require open access to the data underlying research publications.  See the list of OA Publishers of Books and the Research Data Management Services website for more information.

No. The quality of a publication is not affected by the method of access to it.

Like traditional subscription journals, open access journals range in quality, with some providing more rigorous peer review than others.  Faculty and graduate students should look at the editorial board and other relevant information about any journal before submitting their work.

The quality of editing and peer review makes a journal good, not the access method or business model.  Open access journals that have been available for some time have impact factors comparable to traditional journals that have been available for the same period of time.  See Björk and Solomon (2012), Open access versus subscription journals: a comparison of scientific impact, BMC Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 73. 

No, open access does not threaten scholarly journal publishing. Publisher resistance to open access threatens traditional subscription journal publishing.

Most journal publishers support open access. They realize open access is here to stay because the benefits to researchers, institutions, and the public cannot be denied.  As of May 2013, 69% of the 1,241 publishers with open access policies in the SHERPA RoMEO database allow authors to self‐archive their work immediately in a disciplinary or institutional repository (the green route to open access).  The percentage that allows self-archiving after an embargo period (typically twelve months after publication) is much higher.  Current statistics are available at the SHERPA RoMEO statistics page.  There is no evidence that self‐archived author manuscripts have led libraries to cancel journal subscriptions.  Libraries cancel subscriptions because of budget pressures and usage statistics.

Many publishers of traditional subscription journals now also publish open access journals or offer a hybrid, open access option for articles in their traditional journals (the gold route to open access).  Hybrid journals are traditional subscription journals that make selected articles available open access upon payment of fee.

No.  Open access does not break copyright law.  Open access does require authors or their institutions to maintain the rights needed to make their work available open access in a repository or website. 

Many publishers of traditional journals allow authors to deposit a copy of their work in an open access disciplinary or institutional repository.  Many impose an embargo, meaning that open access must be delayed (typically) for 6 to 12 months after publication.  The SHERPA RoMEO database provides easy access to publisher policies on open access.
   
Many funding bodies require open access to articles reporting on research they funded.  Many allow an embargo or delay of 6 to 12 months after publication.  The SHERPA Juliet database provides easy access to funding body policies on open access. 

Plagiarism is easier to do online, but it is also easier to detect online.  For those with access, plagiarism is just as easy to do with an online subscription journal as it is with an open access journal.  The benefits of open access far outweigh the risk of plagiarism.

Ideas are not copyright protected, but they can be protected by delaying open access to your work.  If protecting your ideas is important, delay open access (apply an embargo).  Make the embargo as short as possible to achieve your goal.

If facilitating use of your work and creating an online presence and identity are more important than protecting your work, then make your work available open access.

Building on the success of the 2008 National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy requiring open access to the peer-reviewed results of NIH-funded research within twelve months of publication, in February 2013 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of federally Funded Scientific Research.  The Memorandum, which went into effect immediately, requires federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in research to develop policies mandating public (open) access and re‐use rights to peer‐reviewed publications and digital data arising from that funding.  Draft policies must be available for review within six months (by September 2013).  The upshot is that federally funded researchers at Carnegie Mellon will soon be required to make the results of that research – both publications and data – available open access.

Also in February, 2013, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.  FASTR mandates open access to peer-reviewed articles arising from federally funded research.  The University Libraries prepared a table comparing the White House directive and FASTR.  

Open access is strategic for Carnegie Mellon.  It serves the university’s mission to disseminate knowledge and increases the university’s return on investment in research.  It benefits members of the campus community in their roles as authors and readers. 

In 2007, the Faculty Senate passed an Open Access Resolution strongly encouraging the faculty to provide open access to their work.  In 2008, the Faculty Senate passed a Central Repository Resolution encouraging the university to provide funding to create a central open access repository for research publications and encouraging faculty to deposit their work in the repository. In response, the Office of the Provost funded the repository named Research Showcase.  Research Showcase preserves and provides open access to work produced at Carnegie Mellon and provides a platform for open access journals and conferences, including article submission, peer review, and publication. The Provost worked with the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to pass the NIH Public Access Policy and served on a task force on public access. 

Carnegie Mellon researchers are free to choose where they publish their work, provided that the publisher’s policy complies with any applicable public access mandates.  The university focuses on the intrinsic merit of a work, not the publishing venue, when reviewing work for promotion and tenure.  Work published in a quality open access journal is assessed the same as work published in a quality traditional subscription journal.  Quality open access journals are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.  Many publishers of quality open access journals are members of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) or comply with the OASPA Code of Conduct.

The university supports green and gold open access.  The university supports all credible, practical, and sustainable means of achieving open access.  Some members of the CMU community have reservations about hybrid journals because they charge for both restricted and open access.  That is, academic libraries pay for a subscription to license (restricted) access for their community and authors pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) to make their articles in those licensed journals available open access.

In support of green open access (self-archiving), the University Libraries manages Carnegie Mellon’s open access repository, Research Showcase.  All published or unpublished work by Carnegie Mellon faculty, post-doctoral and graduate students may be deposited in Research Showcase, including journal articles, books, book chapters, conference papers and presentations, technical reports, theses and dissertations.  Carnegie Mellon undergraduate student work that has been peer reviewed or otherwise certified may be deposited in Research Showcase, including H&SS honors theses, capstone projects, and selected materials from the Meeting of the Minds. 

In support of gold open access (open access publishing), the University Libraries provides:


The University Libraries’ liaison librarians and Scholarly Communications Librarian provide guidance and support through online materials and classroom presentations.  The Scholarly Communications Forum, co-sponsored by the Office of the General Counsel, provides lectures and panel discussions on open access and other important scholarly communications issues.  The University Libraries participates in the annual worldwide celebration of Open Access Week to educate the campus community about the importance of open access and how to get involved.

The University Libraries maintains the Scholarly Communications pages to help researchers understand the issues, comply with public access policies, and maximize use and impact of their work.  The Libraries also provides data management services and maintains the Data Management Services pages to help researchers comply with open data mandates. 

In addition, the University Libraries works with the Office of Government Relations to advocate for open access and other technology and intellectual property initiatives that benefit the CMU community.  Advocacy efforts are coordinated with the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an international alliance of academic and research libraries working to correct imbalances in the scholarly publishing system.

Yes, under certain circumstances.  Carnegie Mellon researchers are free to choose where they publish their work, provided that the publisher’s policy complies with any public access mandate applicable to the work.  See Public Access Mandates.

Most publishers allow open access by either the gold or green route.  However some funding agency mandates specify a maximum allowable embargo period or require a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.  Authors must comply with their funding agency’s mandate.  Publishers vary in their support of these details and are adjusting their policies to align with funder requirements. 

The SHERPA RoMEO database provides easy access to publisher policies on open access.  The SHERPA Juliet database provides easy access to funding body policies on open access.

To date, no.  CMU’s open access repository, Research Showcase, was funded by the Office of the Provost.  Membership fees and funds to help authors pay Article Processing Charges (APCs) to publish in open access journals are not supported by the University Libraries’ materials budget.

The University Libraries stewards the materials budget wisely.  Overall circulation of printed materials has declined more than 50% since 2001.  Based on user surveys conducted in 2010 by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis, the University Libraries:

  • Purchases fewer print journals and more electronic journals. 
  • Purchases fewer print books and more electronic books in most disciplines.
  • Continues to purchase many print materials in the humanities and fine arts.

See Troll Covey and Sutkus (2011), Open Access and Library Resources Compete in Importance.

One of the new business models supporting open access to journal articles is an author‐side payment to the publisher of a processing fee to publish accepted articles.  This fee is called an Article Processing Charge or APC.  A consequence of paying an APC is gold open access, i.e., open access to the published article on the publisher’s website.  All hybrid journals and some open access journals levy an APC.  (Open access journals that do not require payment of an APC are subsidized by the hosting university or scholarly society, funded by philanthropy or institutional memberships, or funded by a combination of revenue streams.)

Typically APCs are paid by the author’s sponsor (funding agency or employer) and waived in cases of economic hardship.  Few APCs are actually paid by the author, though practice varies across disciplines.   Many funding agencies approve of grant funds being spent on APCs to publish open access.  See Solomon  and Björk (2011), Publication Fees in Open Access Publishing: Sources of Funding and Factors Influencing Choice of Journal.

The average APC is around $1000, though they range from roughly $250 to $4000.  The lowest APCs are charged by journals published in developing countries.  The highest are charged by journals published by major international for-profit publishers.  Biomedicine has the highest APCs of any discipline. 

Many funding agencies allow grant funds to be spent on APCs for open access publishing of peer-reviewed research articles arising from the grant.  Where grant funds are available to cover the cost, the Principal Investigator can authorize the department business manager to pay the APC directly to the publisher from the grant account.  When grant funding is not available, the Principal Investigator or his/her designate may request financial support from the department and/or the University Libraries.  (See below.)

To reduce the cost of Article Processing Charges (APCs), some publishers offer institutional membership programs.  Processing fees are discounted or waived for members.  At the request of campus faculty, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries joined BioMed Central (BMC) in October 2012 and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) in December 2012.  The memberships give CMU authors a 15% discount on APCs for publishing in a BioMed Central, Chemistry Central, or SpringerOpen journal, and a 10% discount on APCs for publishing in a PLoS journal.  Speak with your liaison librarian to learn more.

Many institutions are creating funds to help cover the cost of APCs to publish open access.  With the unanimous recommendation of CMU’s Scholarly Communications Advisory Board, in 2013 the University Libraries created a fund to help faculty, post-docs, and graduate students pay APCs in open access journals if they have no grant funds that can be used to cover these costs.  See Financial Support for Open Access Publishing for more information. (Note: The Advisory Board was later disbanded.)

Publishing in a traditional journal is not free.  Faculty members give their articles to publishers for free and have free access to articles through their library’s subscriptions or interlibrary loan service.  However, universities (or funding agencies) pay faculty salaries to conduct research, pay for the infrastructure that supports that work, and fund the library.  Publishers profit, many of them substantially, from this business model.

An open license tells users what they may do with a work without asking the copyright owner for permission.  The Creative Commons provides a suite of open licenses that remove one or more copyright restrictions on use while retaining other copyright protections.  Open licenses encourage use of copyrighted works and are an effective means for copyright owners to manage their copyrights.  Without an open license, the copyright owner’s permission is required to use the work unless the use is granted by an exception or limitation in the Copyright Act, such as fair use. 

Making your work available open access removes pay walls that bar access to it.  This is called gratis open access.  Licensing use of your open access work under an open license removes permission barriers as well as price barriers.  This is called libre open access.  The Budapest Open Access Initiative Declaration, signed by CMU Provost Mark Kamlet, and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access [pdf] require libre open access.

Open access is good for all disciplines because it facilitates discovery, broadens access, and increases use, citation, and impact of scholarly work.  Open access is how scholarly journals will be published and disseminated in the future.  As more and more authors, publishers, and organizations embrace open access, traditional subscription journals that do not allow open access could be left behind.

Open access is about values, about leveraging technology to achieve mission‐critical goals to an extent not possible before the Internet, and about containing the escalating cost of journals.  Open access is about generating and disseminating knowledge for the public good. It’s about engaging the public, earning their trust, and respecting their right to access and benefit from the fruits of higher education. It’s about democratizing knowledge, accelerating innovation, and growing the economy.

Subscriptions create barriers.  Even if journal prices are not problems for you or your professional colleagues, they do prevent access by many independent scholars, colleagues at less well‐funded institutions, and the general public.

Open access is more than a business model

Open access is driven by values.  Open access leverages technology to achieve mission‐critical goals to an extent not possible before the Internet.  It’s about generating and disseminating knowledge for the public good.  It’s about engaging the public, earning their trust, and respecting their right to access and benefit from the fruits of higher education. It’s about containing the escalating cost of journals, democratizing knowledge, accelerating innovation, and growing the economy.

Open access addresses the affordability and accessibility problems.  When consumers have no interest in the cost of something because someone else pays for it, their demand for it increases and, with no market mechanism to control prices, so does the cost.  The disconnect between consumer and purchaser creates an affordability problem that can lead to an accessibility problem, when the intermediary who pays for the item can no longer afford to pay for it.

In many disciplines, this is what happened with scholarly journals.  Researchers ignored or were unaware of the consequences of their choice of publisher because libraries paid for journal subscriptions, giving them what appeared to be free access to the journals.  Increased demand led to increased costs. When prices began to escalate at a rate faster than inflation (the affordability problem), library budgets did not keep pace, so libraries had to cancel journal subscriptions (the accessibility problem).

Researchers in disciplines where price increases have led to journal cancellations are beginning to see the implications of their publishing choices on the health and functioning of the scholarly communication system. The author‐side pays business model is one way to engage authors in considering the implications of their publishing choices.

There are multiple business models to provide open access

The author‐side pays business model is not the only funding model for open access journals. Some are funded by philanthropy.  Others are funded by a subsidy from the hosting university or scholarly society.  Still others are funded by a combination of sources. 

Note that Article Processing Charges (APCs) levied by open access journals that do have an author‐side pays business model are typically paid by the author’s sponsor (funding agency or employer), not the author.  Many journals waive the APC in cases of economic hardship.  The University Libraries provides financial support to help CMU author's pay APCs if they do not have other funding.  See Financial Support for Open Access Publishing for details.

No.  Open access is strongly encouraged at Carnegie Mellon, but not mandated. See the Faculty Senate Open Access Resolution and the Guidelines on Author Rights and Preservation.

However, CMU researchers are likely to encounter public (open) access mandates from funding bodies.  When public access is required by their funding agency, CMU researchers must make their work available open access following the stipulations in the agency’s mandate.  See Public Access Mandates.

Yes.  As of April 2013, 80 funding agencies and 168 institutions have mandated open access.  In the United States, the first open access mandates occurred in 2008 with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard.  Mandates typically allow authors to delay open access to scholarly articles for six to twelve months after publication.  The Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP) provides a list of institutional and funder mandates, with links to the repositories and the policies.  The SHERPA Juliet database also provides easy access to funding body policies on open access.

In February 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a Memorandum on Increasing Access to the Results of federally Funded Scientific Research [pdf].  The Memorandum, which went into effect immediately, requires federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in research to develop policies mandating public access and re‐use rights not only to peer‐reviewed publications arising from that funding, but to digital data arising from that funding.  Draft policies must be available for review by the end of August 2013.

Also in February 2013, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.  If passed into law, FASTR will require federal agencies that fund more than $100 million in research to develop policies mandating public access and re‐use rights to peer‐reviewed publications arising from that funding.

The University Libraries prepared a table comparing the White House directive and FASTR.

A CC-BY license is a Creative Commons license granting users permission to distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.  This is the most accommodating of the Creative Commons licenses, recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.  Funder mandates increasingly require that work be made available open access under a CC-BY license.

The SHERPA RoMEO database provides easy access to publisher policies on open access and information about whether they support compliance with funding agency mandates.  In some cases, the publisher's default policy conflicts with funder mandates, but the publisher allows authors to comply with selected mandates.  The SHERPA Juliet database provides easy access to funding body policies on open access. 

Contact your liaison librarian or the Scholarly Communications Librarian if you need assistance.

You have two options.  You can either choose a different journal, one that allows you to comply with the funder’s open access policy, or negotiate an agreement with the publisher of your preferred journal to allow you to comply.  The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine can facilitate the negotiation by generating an addendum you can attach to the publisher's standard agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights.  Contact your liaison librarian or the Scholarly Communications Librarian for assistance.

Many funding agencies that require open access allow grant funds to be used to support open access.  Search for your funding agency’s policy in the SHERPA Juliet database or the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP). 

If your funding agency requires deposit (self-archiving) in an open access repository, then no, you do not need to apply for open access funding in your grant application.  There is no fee to self-archive your work.   However, if your funding agency requires or encourages open access publishing and your preferred open access publisher levies an Article Processing Charge (APC), then yes, you should apply for open access funding in your grant application. Check the journal’s website to see if your preferred open access publisher charges an APC.

Check your funding agency’s public access policy for the date the mandate went into effect.  The policy applies to all peer-reviewed publications arising from grant funds since the date the mandate went into effect.  The mandate does not apply to work published prior to that date, though Carnegie Mellon encourages you to make all your publications available open access if the publisher allows it.  

See CMU's Guidelines on Author Rights and Preservation.  Check the SHERPA RoMEO database for publisher policies on open access.

Open access provides the broadest possible dissemination of research and yields the greatest, fastest return on investment in research.  It increases use, citations, and impact, accelerating advances in the disciplines.  In the United States, most research is funded by taxpayer dollars, but without open access, the public cannot easily access the results of the research they funded. 

Open access is about generating and disseminating knowledge for the public good. It’s about engaging the public, earning their trust, and respecting their right to access and benefit from the fruits of higher education.  It’s about democratizing knowledge, accelerating innovation, and growing the economy.  It’s also about leveraging technology to contain the cost of scholarly publishing, which has been increasing annually at a rate far beyond inflation for decades.