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Open Access FAQ

Open access and alternative models for publication

What is “Open Access?”

Open access refers to providing information or documents “freely to the public via the internet.” Normally it also means permitting anyone to “...read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of...articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.” (Budapest Open Access Initiative)

How is open access to research publications typically achieved?

  • Open Access Journals. Authors can publish their work in one of nearly 10,000 journals worldwide that make their articles freely available via the internet. Open access journals often finance themselves using a variety of alternative funding models, including article processing fees or page charges.
  • Author Self-archiving. Authors can also place article “pre-prints” (versions of articles before peer review) or “post-prints” (the revised versions following peer review) in a subject-based repository like PubMed Central (PMC) for biomedical and life sciences journal literature, ArXiv for Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics, or an “institutional” repository like those in place at many research universities.  An institutional repository is a system for preserving and making accessible scholarly work created at an academic institution or in conjunction with other institutions.  The UW institutional repository is the ResearchWorks archive, part of the ResearchWorks suite of services.

What are some open access pros and cons?

  • Open access to journal articles and other publications makes research results available to researchers, students and taxpayers who don’t have and may not be able to afford access to the journals they appear in – which can be quite expensive.
  • Some journal publishers and scholarly societies argue that open access will undermine their financial health and have other negative consequences.
  • Articles made available on an open access basis may be cited more and be more influential than those that have not. (See a summary of such citation studies.)

Does the UW have an open access policy?

The University has taken no formal position on open access, but in 2015 the Faculty Senate, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Associated Students of the University of Washington Student Senate all passed resolutions related to and in support of open access.  In April 2009 the Faculty Senate approved a resolution encouraging faculty to publish in “moderately priced journals, in journals published by professional societies and associations, or in peer-reviewed ‘open access’ journals,” and to archive their work in open access repositories.  Links to all of those documents can be found here.

The UW’s Office of Research also issued a statement of UW position in 2007 encouraging voluntary open access.

Does UW have an Institutional Repository?

Yes. The UW Libraries’ repository is called ResearchWorks at the University of Washington. The ResearchWorks service is segmented into six parts – the Archive, Journal Hosting, Data Services, Geospatial Services, Media Publishing, and Digital Initiatives.

As a UW researcher, can I add copies of my publications to the ResearchWorks Archive?

Absolutely, and in fact we encourage you to do so.  Read more information about the Archive and five great reasons to use the service.

What if I’m looking to start a new journal or help re-locate an existing title – could I take advantage of ResearchWorks Journal Hosting Service?

Definitely – that’s why we’re supporting the service.  See a description of the journal hosting service for more information.

As a graduate student, can I make my thesis or dissertation available on an open access basis through ResearchWorks?

Effective spring quarter 2012, the Graduate School and the Libraries began to require that all UW theses and dissertations be submitted electronically. When an electronic thesis or dissertation (ETD) is submitted, copies are delivered both to ProQuest and to UW’s ResearchWorks. The UW copy will become open access – immediately if the student chooses that option or after a delay of up to five years. The service is free of charge. For more information, see: Access Options for Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs).

What else should I know or think about when considering making my thesis or dissertation available on an open access basis?

  • Open access and author copyright. As the author of your thesis or dissertation, you own the copyright, and making your thesis or dissertation available on an open access basis in ResearchWorks will not change that.
  • Open access as prior publication. A recent study indicates most university presses will consider publishing books based on open access dissertations, and the vast majority of journal publishers will consider publishing articles derived from them. The key issue for most publishers is the quality of your work, in other words. However, if you expect to publish a revised version of your thesis or dissertation as a book (relatively few are ever published as books, but you might plan to publish materials produced as part of a Creative Writing program, for example), or re-use parts of it for a journal article, you may want to check with likely publishers, and if necessary delay the public release of your thesis or dissertation.
  • Other “good practices” that may be more important when your work is more visible:
    • Copyrighted materials. Some theses and dissertations contain copyrighted material, such as journal articles that the author may have published or co-published as part of his/her graduate work, a copy of a standardized test, or visual opjects (images, photos, charts, graphs, tables, etc.) reproduced from other publications. Authors should make sure they have the right to reproduce any such content before making it freely available.
    • Patents. Occasionally a thesis or dissertation contains or refers to work that the author, their Department or the UW may wish to protect via one or more patents, and consequently "embargo" or delay its release for a certain period of time, such as a year or two.

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