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Open Access Policy FAQ

June 1, 2016

About the Policy

The following document is meant to show how an open access policy like the one being recommended might be interpreted and implemented. If and when the policy is enacted, a similar document would be made available and kept updated.

What are the main things UW authors should know about the policy?

    • The policy would not restrict where authors can or should publish, nor require them to pay open access fees.
    • Faculty would deposit the final, accepted, post-peer review version of their research articles prior to final publisher formatting (“Accepted Author Manuscript” or “Author’s Final Version”) in the University’s institutional repository, ResearchWorks Archive.
    • Faculty who choose to publish their articles in open access journals or via disciplinary repositories such as arXiv and PubMed Central would not be asked to also deposit these articles in ResearchWorks Archive.
    • If the policy were adopted, faculty would automatically grant to the University a non-exclusive license to their scholarly articles in order to make those articles freely available via ResearchWorks Archive.
    • Faculty would not transfer copyright for their scholarly articles to the University.
    • If faculty direct the University to waive or delay application of the policy for a particular article, it would be automatically granted.
    • The proposed policy is “opt-out” instead of “opt-in” to allow faculty to retain rights to re-use and share their work widely without requiring them to negotiate with publishers.  By granting limited rights to the University prior to signing a publication agreement, faculty authors would be able to retain selective rights without having to negotiate for these rights on their own.  The Libraries would notify publishers about the University’s open access policy.
    • Peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers would normally be considered to fall within the category of “scholarly articles,” but for purposes of the policy the definition would be left to faculty discretion to allow for disciplinary differences.
    • The policy would only affect articles created on or after the date that the policy goes into effect.
    • The Libraries and University will strive to provide appropriate technology and other support to facilitate article deposit for faculty authors.

      What are the purposes of the recommended policy?

      • Benefits to authors. Open access works are more easily found and accessible via tools like Google Scholar than those made available solely via traditional methods. This results in greater visibility, as well as a well-documented “open access citation advantage.” In addition, under the policy authors retain rights to use their work in teaching or future scholarly work that might otherwise be exclusively and unnecessarily assigned to publishers.
      • Fulfills the Mission of the University and the Faculty. The goals of the recommended open access policy support the stated goals of the University.  For example the Role and Mission of the University states that “The primary mission of the University of Washington is the preservation, advancement, and dissemination of knowledge” – all of which would be enhanced by the policy. By encouraging faculty to make their research readily available to the public and the research community, the policy would also support the Faculty Code’s public service expectations.
      • Benefits to the University. The open access policy will promote the value of UW research and scholarship to funding agencies and the taxpayers of the state of Washington.  In addition the policy will serve to highlight the University’s role as a national and global resource for positive change through education and research.
      • Public benefits. The policy would make the results of UW research available to individuals who do not have access to academic journals that may be prohibitively expensive.  This wider access would be expected to accelerate discovery of new ideas, allow a global audience to engage with the scholarship of the University and allow instructors to make use of materials for teaching at no cost.  Wider availability of research articles democratizes information and spurs further innovation and progress.
      • Serves as a Catalyst for Change in Scholarly Publishing. Under the current unsustainable publishing model journal prices have increased at 5 times the rate of the Consumer Price Index within the past 15 years, while major journal publishers limit journal cancellations by “bundling” desirable and undesirable titles together – thus strictly limiting cancellations. At the same time, authors are often required to transfer copyrights to publishers and accept restrictions on common practices like making their work available on the web or using it in classes.   The rate of transition from a toll-based to open access publishing model is unpredictable, but an open access policy supported by the faculty would not only allow UW authors to retain extremely broad use and reuse rights with a minimum of effort, it would also strengthen the University’s position negotiating with publishers both for authors’ rights and future subscription licensing terms.

      What is open access?

      Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. (Peter Suber, 2012)

      Do other universities have open access policies?

      Yes, dozens of public and private universities in the U.S. and other countries have open access policies, including the University of California, the University of Minnesota, Duke, MIT, all of Harvard’s 9 schools – and within the last few months the University of Arizona and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. See a list of additional universities and funding agencies with open access policies.

      To whom would the policy apply?

      The policy would apply to members of the UW Faculty as defined in section 21-31 of the Faculty Code. It would not apply to other UW academic or research staff or to students, although all members of the UW community are welcome and encouraged to deposit their scholarly and research articles.

      The policy refers to Scholarly Articles.  What does that mean?

      In this context, “scholarly articles” refers to the kinds of articles through which authors share research results to advance research and human knowledge without expectation of payment. Faculty would not be asked to freely distribute works for which they would normally receive royalties or other payment.

      Peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers would normally be considered to fall within this category, but for purposes of the policy the definition would be left to faculty discretion to allow for disciplinary differences.

      What works would fall outside the “scholarly articles” definition?

      Examples of works that would not fall under the policy include, but are not limited to, materials faculty prepare for the courses they teach, books (including edited volumes), commissioned articles or reports, case studies written for compensation, fiction, poetry, musical compositions, computer code, or popular writings.

      How would it work, and what would I have to do to comply with the policy?

      UW faculty members who do not normally share their scholarly articles via arXiv, PubMed Central or another open access repository would either self-deposit their articles into the ResearchWorks Archive or make them available to Libraries' staff for mediated deposit.

      The Libraries is proposing to provide additional tools and services to further streamline and support authors in the article submission process. One tool features a “citation harvester” that would alert authors when citations to newly-published articles have been found, provide information about publisher policies and waiver or delayed access options, and streamline self-deposit of articles by the author. Implementation of these services is pending, based on future approval and funding.

      Why make the policy “opt out” instead of “opt in?”

      Under a “rights retention” or “opt-out” policy like the one proposed, faculty members grant their institution “default” permission to make their research articles available Open Access as of an effective date, unless they specify otherwise for a given article by requesting a waiver. The main reason an opt-out policy is necessary is because it enables faculty members to retain extensive rights for sharing their work with minimal effort. Without an Open Access policy, these rights to share are signed over to publishers when the author signs their copyright transfer agreement before publication. But with an opt-out Open Access policy, faculty will keep sharing rights so they can deposit a copy with the University repository (or elsewhere). Briefly put, an 'opt-out' policy is a low-effort, legally sound solution to the problem of sharing faculty work freely without violating publisher agreements.

      Timing is important:

        • Once the proposed policy is in place, its transfer of limited rights to the University would pre-empt the grant of what are typically extensive rights to journal publishers via author publication agreements.
        • If UW faculty instead 'opt-in' to Open Access after publication, they would only have the rights allowed by their publication agreements. Publication agreements are typically very restrictive, and prohibit most kinds of sharing.
        • By granting limited rights to the University in advance and authorizing it to communicate the policy to publishers, faculty would be able to share their work widely without having to negotiate for these rights on their own.

      A second reason for recommending an “opt out” policy is that experience has shown participation is virtually certain to be far higher. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy was optional. During that period, there was only a 4% level of compliance. Studies of institutional Open Access policies also indicate that Opt-out policy participation rates are typically four times as high as for “opt-in” policies.

      What would qualify as an Open Access Repository?

      There are now many services and sites through which researchers may share their work, but not all can or should be considered open access repositories. Those that clearly qualify include such well-known repositories as arXiv and PubMed Central, as well as the hundreds of others listed in The Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR). These sites share several key features, such as the full support of the re-use of materials, commitments to long-term preservation, and nonprofit business models.  In contrast, popular social networking sites like Academia.edu and ResearchGate are primarily commercial in nature, lack commitments to long-term preservation, full open search, sharing and re-use – and would not meet the requirements of the policy.

      Copyright and Publisher Issues

      How would the policy relate to current University policies on publishing and copyright?

      Under the policy, authors would retain full copyright ownership as specified under existing University policies (Executive Order 36). However, the policy would give the University a limited, nonexclusive license to preserve and provide access to faculty scholarly articles produced here.

      Would the University be taking away my rights to my scholarly articles?

      No. The grant of rights to the University under this policy would be a nonexclusive license.  The author would remain the copyright owner of the work. The University would have a limited license to save copies for posterity, and make them available to the world.

      Would the policy limit where I can publish?

      No. All existing options and venues for publication would be compatible with this policy. The license granted to the University under this policy would provide additional options for authors to make copies openly available if they so choose.    

      Would I need to pay for open access?

      No.  There is no requirement to publish in open access journals or pay to make articles open access in mixed or “hybrid” journals.  The purpose of the policy is to provide a free open access option using the University’s ResearchWorks repository.

      How would publishers be made aware of the UW policy?

      Following the University of California system and other institutions, the University of Washington would inform publishers of the policy.  Information about the policy for publishers would be publicly posted and kept up to date.

      What are waivers and delayed access?

      A waiver allows an author to opt out of granting permission to make a specific article available, while a delay in access (sometimes referred to as an embargo) simply allows a period of time such as 6 months or a year to pass before an article is made available. Under the proposed policy, waivers and access delays are to be granted on request, with no justification required.

      Would I need to get permission from my co-authors to comply with the policy?

      No.  According to U.S. copyright law each joint author can give nonexclusive permission to copy and distribute the work.   However, best practices would suggest that authors inform their co-authors of the policy.

      Would I be able to make my work openly accessible if it included a third party’s copyrighted images?

      If an author signs an agreement to get access to the image or use the image in within an article, s/he would need to review the agreement to see if it precludes further distribution from the University’s repository.  If that use is not allowed, an author can request permission from the copyright owner or get a waiver for that article.

      Once the work is openly available what uses would be allowed?

      Articles could be copied and distributed by the University and by others as long as it is not for profit.   [NOTE: It may be an option to faculty to allow other additional uses of their work on a case-by-case basis.]

      What happens when a publisher’s policy conflicts with the policy?

      Many publishers require exclusive rights to an author’s work as part of the publication agreement; this policy would preempt those default terms.  If the publisher does not require a waiver of the policy authors are within their rights to take advantage of the policy and make their work open access.

      ResearchWorks and Deposit of Articles

      What is the ResearchWorks Archive?

      The ResearchWorks Archive is the UW’s institutional repository. It provides a permanent, safe service for providing access to articles, technical reports, datasets, images and other file types produced at the University of Washington by faculty and researchers.  The Archive enables University of Washington researchers and academic units to make their scholarly materials accessible to the world, at a stable URL, with the assurance that the materials will be maintained into the future.

      Which version would I deposit?

      Authors would normally deposit what may be called either the “Accepted Author Manuscript” or “Author’s Final Version”: the final, accepted, post-peer review draft. However, some publishers allow authors to deposit the published (typically PDF) version – including final copy-edits and formatting – so you might prefer to deposit that version instead. A good source of journal and publisher policy information is the SHERPA/RoMEO web site.