What you can do to promote open access

This list of ways to help the cause of open access (OA) is more comprehensive than earlier lists but still incomplete. I expect to revise and enlarge it regularly. It borrows from the BOAI list (which I helped write), Stevan Harnad's list, the BMC list, and my own earlier list (now offline). I welcome your ideas and comments.

If you're not sure what open access is, then see my Open Access Overview.

Peter Suber
Last revised April 16, 2007.


Universities:  Faculty

  • Submit your research articles to OA journals, when there are appropriate OA journals in your field.
  • Deposit your preprints in an open-access, OAI-compliant archive.
    • It could be a disciplinary or institutional archive.
    • If your institution doesn't have one already, then faculty or librarians should launch one. See the list for librarians, below.
    • There is no comprehensive list of open-access, OAI-compliant archives, but I maintain a list of the best lists.
    • If you have questions about archiving your eprints, then see Stevan Harnad's Self-Archiving FAQ.
  • Deposit your postprints in an open-access OAI-compliant archive.
    • The "postprint" is the version accepted by the peer-review process of a journal, often after some revision.
    • If you transferred copyright to your publisher, then postprint archiving requires the journal's permission. However, many journals --about 80%-- have already consented in advance to postprint archiving by authors. Some will consent when asked. Some will not consent. For publisher policies about copyright and author archiving, see the searchable database maintained by Project SHERPA.
    • If you have not yet transferred copyright to a publisher, then ask to retain copyright. (More below.)
      • If the journal does not let you retain copyright, then ask at least for the right of postprint archiving.
      • If it does not let you retain the right to archive your postprint, then ask for permission to put the postprint on your personal web site. For many journals, the difference between OA through an archive and OA through a personal web site is significant.
    • If you have transferred copyright and the publisher does not allow postprint archiving, then at least deposit the article's metadata (essentially, citation information like author, title, journal, date, and so on) in an OA archive. That will allow researchers to learn of the article's existence when runnning searches, and ask you for a copy by email.
      • In most cases you can also put the full-text in the archive and select an option for "institutional access" rather than "open access". At least that makes the article available to your immediate colleagues and students. Moreover, if the publisher allows OA archiving after an embargo period like six months, then this method makes OA one mouse click away, easy to reach when the time comes.
    • The chief benefit of postprint archiving is reaching a much larger audience than you could reach with any priced publication (in print or online). Reaching a larger audience increases your impact, including your citation count. Many studies confirm that OA articles are cited significantly more often (on the order of 50-300% more often) than non-OA articles from the same journal and year.
    • Because most non-OA journals permit postprint archiving, it is compatible with publishing in a non-OA journal. Don't assume that publishing in a conventional or non-OA journal forecloses the possibility of providing OA to your own work --on the contrary.
    • Depositing your postprint in an OA repository takes, on average, 6-10 minutes. Don't assume that self-archiving takes a lot of time --on the contrary. (You've already spent hours trying to get your work in front of the audience that can use it, build on it, apply it, cite it. The last few minutes can vastly amplify that effort.)
    • If you're unfamiliar with the process of self-archiving, or if you think it's time-consuming, difficult, or intimidating, then try this demo. (First read this brief explanation.)
  • When asked by a colleague to send a copy of one of your articles, self-archive the article instead. That is, deposit the postprint in an open-access OAI-compliant archive at your institution or in your discipline.
    • Self-archiving takes about as much time as sending a single copy to a single colleague. But instead of making your work available to colleagues one at a time, and multiplying your labor by the number of colleagues who ask for copies, make your work available to everyone through a single act of OA archiving
  • Ask journals to let you retain the rights you need to consent to open access.
    • When you can, negotiate either (1) to retain copyright and transfer only the right of first print and electronic publication, or (2) to transfer copyright but retain the right of postprint archiving.
    • Most non-OA journals ask authors to transfer copyright, but many will show some flexibility if you ask individually. Even when journals refuse to let you retain copyright, it's important for them to hear from you and other authors who want them to change their policy about this.
    • For advice on negotiating the copyright transfer agreement with a journal, and suggested language to include in the agreement, see any of the sites collected in the section on administrators, below.
    • See Lawrence Lessig's open access pledge: "Never again....[F]rom this moment on, I am committed to the Open Access pledge: I will not agree to publish in any academic journal that does not permit me the freedoms of at least a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license." Scholars who worry about their ability to follow suit without Lessig's bargaining power should try the SPARC Author's Addendum.
  • Deposit your data files in an OA archive along with the articles built on them. Whenever possible, link to the data files from the articles, and vice versa, so that readers of one know where to find the other.
  • Negotiate with conventional journals to try the Walker-Prosser method of experimenting with OA.
    • Namely:  if the journal is not already OA, it might still offer OA to individual articles when the authors or their sponsors pay an upfront fee to cover the journal's costs in vetting and preparing the text. See Thomas Walker's article that first proposed this method and David Prosser's article that refined it.
    • There's no harm in asking, and it helps the cause if the labor of asking journals to consider OA experiments is distributed among the authors with an interest in OA publication.
  • Consider launching an OA journal in your area of specialization.
  • When asked to referee a paper or serve on the editorial board for an OA journal, accept the invitation.
  • When asked to referee a paper or serve on the editorial board for a toll-access journal, consider declining and explaining why.
    • Faculty needn't donate their time and labor to journals that lock up their content behind access barriers where it is less useful to the profession. Universities should support faculty who make this otherwise career-jeopardizing decision. Faculty don't need to boycott priced journals, but they don't need to assist them either.
  • If you are an editor of a toll-access journal, then start an in-house discussion about converting to OA, experimenting with OA, letting authors retain copyright, abolishing the Ingelfinger rule, or declaring independence (quitting and launching an OA journal to serve the same research niche).
    • For more ideas of what journals can do, see the list for journals below.
  • Ask the journals where you have some influence (as editor, referee, or author) to do more to support OA. For example, see the list of what journals can do, below.
  • When applying for research grants, ask the foundation for funds to pay the processing fees charged by OA journals. Many foundations are already on the record as willing to do this. For the rest, it's important to ask.
  • Volunteer to serve on your university's committee to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure. Make sure the committee is using criteria that, at the very least, do not penalize faculty for publishing in peer-reviewed OA journals. At best, adjust the criteria to give faculty an incentive to provide OA to their peer-reviewed research articles and preprints, either through OA journals or OA archives.
    • For more on how these criteria need revision (and therefore how you could help if you served on the committee), see the section on administrators, below.
  • See the list of what administrators can do. Work with your administration to adopt university-wide policies that promote OA. When administrators don't understand OA, educate them.
    • Of all the items on that list, the most important may be to urge your institution to create an open-access OAI-compliant eprint archive and adopt policies encouraging faculty to fill it with their research articles.
  • Work with your professional societies to make sure they understand OA. Persuade the organization to make its own journals OA, endorse OA for other journals in the field, and support OA eprint archiving by all scholars in the field.
    • If the society launches a disciplinary eprint archive for the field, consider offering to have your university host it, just as arXiv (for example) is hosted by Cornell.
    • Also see the list of what learned societies can do. Ask the societies where you pay dues to consider these actions. Ask other members to help you change access policies at the society.
  • Make sure that your works (OA and non-OA) are indexed by Google Scholar.
    • If your published works are not in GS, then ask your publisher to contact GS.
    • If your archived works are not in GS, then ask the tech people at your archive or repository to configure it to facilitate crawling by Google and other search engines.
  • Create an online index or database of the OA sources in your field.
  • If you work in biomedicine and receive funding the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), then comply with its request to deposit any publications based on NIH-funded research in PubMed Central (PMC), and authorize PMC to release them to the public as soon as possible after publication.
    • SPARC has put together a good page on the benefits for researchers in complying with this request and suggestions on how to do so in the most effective way.
  • Consider becoming an individual member of the Public Library of Science.
  • Keep up with open-access news.
  • Write opinion pieces (articles, journal editorials, newspapers op-eds, letters to the editor, discussion forum postings) advancing the cause of OA.
  • Help document the benefits of open access or the harms caused by the lack of it.
  • See the MIT list of what faculty can do.
  • See Create Change, a very good overview of the issues for scholars.
  • Educate the next generation of scientists and scholars about OA.
    • Make sure that new researchers (and experienced older researchers too!) understand their self-interest in OA. Make sure they understand that OA increases the impact of research articles.
    • Or, at a minimum, don't let myths about OA circulate without challenge, e.g. that OA violates copyright, dispenses with peer review, or presupposes that journals have no expenses.
    • When you meet students, colleagues, or administrators who are curious and want to know more, or who misunderstand and need some facts, direct them to my Open Access Overview.

Universities:  Librarians

  • Launch an open-access, OAI-compliant institutional eprint archive, for both texts and data.
    • The main reason for universities to have institutional repositories is to enhance the visibility, retrievability, and impact of the research output of the university. It will raise the profile of the work, the faculty, and the institution itself.
    • A more specific reason is that a growing number of journals allow authors to deposit their postprints in institutional but not disciplinary repositories. Even though this is an almost arbitrary distinction, institutions without repositories will leave some of their faculty stranded with no way to provide OA to their work.
    • "OAI-compliant" means that the archive complies with the metadata harvesting protocol of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). This makes the archive interoperable with other compliant archives so that the many separate archives behave like one grand, virtual archive for purposes such as searching. This means that users can search across OAI-compliant archives without visiting the separate archives and running separate searches. Hence, it makes your content more visible, even if users don't know that your archive exists or what it contains.
    • There are almost a dozen open-source packages for creating and maintaining OAI-compliant archives. The four most important are Eprints (from Southampton University), DSpace (from MIT), CDSWare (from CERN), and FEDORA (from Cornell and U. of Virginia).
    • When building the case for an archive among colleagues and administrators, see The Case for Institutional Repositories: A SPARC Position Paper, by Raym Crow.
    • When deciding which software to use, see the BOAI Guide to Institutional Repository Software.
    • When implementing the archive, see the SPARC Institutional Repository Checklist & Resource Guide.
    • Configure your archive to facilitate crawling by Google and other search engines.
    • If your institution wants an archive but would prefer to outsource the work, then consider the Open Repository service from BioMed Central or the DigitalCommons@ service from ProQuest and Bepress.
  • Help faculty deposit their research articles in the institutional archive.
    • Many faculty are more than willing, just too busy. Some suffer from tech phobias. Some might need education about the benefits.
    • For example, some university libraries have dedicated FTE's who visit faculty, office by office, to help them deposit copies of their articles in the institutional repository. (This is not difficult and could be done by student workers.) The St. Andrews University Library asks faculty to send in their articles as email attachments and library staff will then deposit them in the institutional repository.
  • Consider publishing an open-access journal.
  • Consider rejecting the big deal, or cancelling journals that cannot justify their high prices, and issue a public statement explaining why.
    • See my list of other universities that have already done so. If they give you courage and ideas, realize that you can do the same for others.
    • Give presentations to the faculty senate, or the library committee, or to separate departments, educating faculty and adminstrators about the scholarly communication crisis and showing how open access is part of any comprehensive solution. You will need faculty and administrative support for these decisions, but other universities have succeeded in getting it.
  • Help OA journals launched at the university become known to other libraries, indexing services, potential funders, potential authors, and potential readers.
  • Include OA journals in the library catalog.
    • The Directory of Open Access Journals offers its journal metadata free for downloading. For tips on how to use these records, see the 2003 discussion thread on the ERIL list (readable only by list subscribers) or Joan Conger's summary of the thread (readable by everyone).
    • Take other steps to insure that students and faculty doing research at your institution know about OA sources, not just traditional print and toll-access sources.
  • Offer to assure the long-term preservation of some specific body of OA content.
    • OA journals suffer from the perception that they cannot assure long-term preservation. Libraries can come to their rescue and negate this perception. For example, in September 2003 the National Library of the Netherlands agreed to do this for all BioMed Central journals. This is a major library offering to preserve a major collection, but smaller libraries can do the same for smaller collections.
  • Undertake digitization, access, and preservation projects not only for faculty, but for local groups, e.g. non-profits, community organizations, museums, galleries, libraries. Show the benefits of OA to the non-academic community surrounding the university, especially the non-profit community.
  • Negotiate with vendors of priced electronic content (journals and databases) for full access by walk-in patrons.
    • A September 2003 article in Scientific American suggests that only a minority of libraries already do this.
  • Annotate OA articles and books with their metadata.
    • OA content is much more useful when it is properly annotated with metadata. University librarians could start by helping their own faculty annotate their own OA works. But if they have time (or university funding) left over, then they could help the cause by annotating other OA content as a public service.
  • Inform faculty in biomedicine at your institution about the NIH public-access policy.
    • SPARC has put together a good page on the benefits for researchers in complying with the NIH policy and suggestions on how to do so in the most effective way, and another page for librarians on ways to help faculty understand the policy and realize its benefits.
  • Help design impact measurements (like e.g. citation correlator) that take advantage of the many new kinds of usage data available for OA sources.
    • The OA world needs this and it seems that only librarians can deliver it. We need measures other than the standard impact factor. We need measures that are article-based (as opposed to journal or institution based), that can be automated, that don't oversimplify, and that take full advantage of the plethora of data available for OA resources unavailable for traditional print resources.
    • Librarians can also help pressure existing indices and impact measures to cover OA sources.
  • Join SPARC, a consortium of academic libraries actively promoting OA.
  • Join the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a coalition of U.S.-based non-profit organizations working for OA to publicly-funded research. See the existing members of the ATA. If you can persuade your university as a whole to join the ATA, then do that as well.

Universities:  Administrators

  • See to it that the university launches an open-access, OAI-compliant archive. See details under librarians, above.
  • Adopt policies encouraging or requiring faculty to fill the institutional archive with their research articles and preprints.
    • For example, endorse the recommendations of the third Berlin OA conference (March 2005), namely, "to require [your] researchers to deposit a copy of all their published articles in an open access repository" and "to encourage [your] researchers to publish their research articles in open access journals where a suitable journal exists and provide the support to enable that to happen."
    • For example, require that any articles to be considered in a promotion and tenure review must be on deposit in the university's OA archive, with a working URL in the resume. For articles based on data generated by the author, the data files should also be on deposit in the archive. For books, authors should deposit the metadata and reference lists. For other kinds of output, faculty could deposit the metadata plus whatever other digital materials they wish to make accessible.
    • If your institution is willing to encourage or require the OA archiving of its research output, then sign the Registry of Institutional OA Self-Archiving Policies. See the institutions that have already made this commitment --and the links to their access policies.
    • According to the JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey Report (February 2004, pp. 56-57), when authors are asked "how they would feel if their employer or funding body required them to deposit copies of their published articles in one or more [open-access] repositories...[t]he vast majority, even of the non-OA author group, said they would do so willingly." (Italics in original.)
    • See the exemplary policy at Queensland University of Technology that took effect on January 1, 2004. "Material which represents the total publicly available research and scholarly output of the University is to be located in the University's digital or 'E-print' repository, subject to the exclusions noted...."
    • Also see the exemplary policy at the University of Minho, explicitly requiring faculty to deposit their scholarly publications (with some exceptions) in the institutional repository.
    • Also the model policy developed at Southampton University.
    • Also see the notes on developing a policy from the Eprints Handbook.
    • The university could pay for a digital librarian (whole or fractional FTE) to help faculty put their past publications into digital form, deposit them in the university archive, and enter the relevant metadata. Many OA-friendly faculty are simply too busy to do this for themselves.
    • Many universities have institutional archives, but do nothing to fill them. Faculty who understand the issues already have an incentive to deposit their articles and preprints. But the university should create incentives, and offer assistance, to those who don't yet understand the issues or who don't have the time to deposit their own eprints.
  • Adopt a policy: In hiring, promotion, and tenure, the university will give due weight to all peer-reviewed publications, regardless of price or medium.
    • More:  The university will stop using criteria that penalize and deter publication in OA journals. All criteria that depend essentially on prestige or impact factors fall into this category. These criteria are designed to deny recognition to second-rate contributions, which is justified until they start to deny recognition to first-rate contributions. These criteria intrinsically deny recognition to new publications, even if excellent, that have not had time to earn prestige or impact factors commensurate with their quality. Because these criteria fail to recognize many worthy contributions to the field, they are unfair to the candidates undergoing review. They also perpetuate a vicious circle that deters submissions to new journals, and thereby hinders the launch of new journals, even if the new journals would pursue important new topics, methods, or funding and access policies. Therefore they retard disciplinary progress as well as the efficiency of scholarly communication.
    • On February 27, 2004, the Indiana University Bloomington Faculty Council adopted a resolution with this language: "In tenure and promotion decisions faculty and staff must be confident that there is departmental and university support for their decisions to publish in referred journals with more open access." (Details.)
  • Adopt a policy: faculty who publish articles must either (1) retain copyright, and transfer only the right of first print and electronic publication, or (2) transfer copyright but retain the right of postprint archiving.
    • SPARC and the Creative Commons have developed an Author's Addendum for authors to add to their copyright transfer agreements with publishers. The purpose is to let authors retain the rights they need to authorize OA.
    • The University of Kansas has language that other universities could borrow or adapt for this purpose. Kansas recommends but does not require that faculty insert the language into copyright transfer agreements with journals.
    • The Association of American Law Schools has developed a model author/journal agreement.
    • Other model licenses for scholars to borrow or adapt have been developed by Stuart Shieber (Harvard, computer science) and Mark Lemley (Stanford, law).
    • The Johns Hopkins University Scholarly Communications Group has collected some model copyright and publishing agreements.
    • The Zwolle Group has a checklist of issues to think about when negotiating or signing an agreement with publishers, and some sample agreements for different scenarios.
  • Adopt a policy: when faculty cannot get the funds to pay the processing fee charged by an OA journal from their research grant, then the university will pay the fee.
    • If the university is worried about a runaway expense, then it could cap the number of dollars or articles per faculty member per year, and raise the cap over time as the spread of OA brings about larger and larger savings to the library serials budget. In the case of publications based on funded research, the university could offer to pay the fees only when the funding agencies have been asked and will not pay.
  • Adopt a policy: all theses and dissertations, upon acceptance, must be made openly accessible, for example, through the institutional repository or one of the multi-institutional OA archives for theses and dissertations.
  • Adopt a policy: all conferences hosted at your university will provide open access to their presentations or proceedings, even if the conference also chooses to publish them in a priced journal or book. This is compatible with charging a registration fee for the conference.
  • Adopt a policy: all journals hosted or published by your university will either be OA or take steps to be friendlier to OA. For example, see the list of what journals can do, below.
  • If your university is in the UK, or if it is subject to any research assessment process similar to the UK's Research Assessment Exercise, then consider the model policy from Stevan Harnad et al. for ensuring that institutional research output is OA and that faculty use standardized, online CV's linking to OA versions of their research articles.
  • Support, even reward, faculty who launch OA journals.
    • For example: give them released time, technical support, server space, secretarial help, promotion and tenure credit, publicity, strokes.
    • Related: give due recognition to faculty who serve as editors or referees for OA journals, at least if this recognition is given for similar service on important traditional journals. Most OA journals, because they are new, haven't acquired the prestige of established, conventional journals, even if their quality is just as high or even higher. Universities should support faculty who help bring about a superior publishing alternative, not just those who bring prestige to themselves and the university through existing channels.
  • Consider buying an institutional membership in BioMed Central, or an institutional membership or sponsorship in the Public Library of Science.
  • If your university uses DSpace, then consider joining the DSpace Federation.
  • Sign the Budapest Open Access Initiative and/or sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

Universities:  Students

  • As the researchers of the future, take your changed expectations with you. Researchers will finally take advantage of the internet in scholarly communication when a generation that has grown up with the internet occupies positions of responsibility in universities, laboratories, libraries, foundations, journals, publishers, learned societies, government research and funding agencies, and legislatures.
  • As expert users, help faculty, e.g. by archiving their papers for them or pointing them to relevant OA resources.
  • As programmers, develop open-source tools for open access.
  • Take part in the student-led Free Culture movement. Make sure that open access to research literature has its place on the agenda along side open-source software, copyright reform, and other free culture issues.
  • Nudge your university to do what it can do to promote open access. Use informal channels like conversations, friendships, and networking, or use formal channels like student government.
  • See the MIT list of what students can do.

Universities:  other

  • Use the university OA infrastructure as another way to offer outreach to the community. For example, invite community groups to use the university's OA archive. The university could offer to digitize, host, and preserve content for some non-profit organizations in the area.
  • Public universities should explain to the citizens of their state, state legislators, and state newspapers, why their new OA policies are maximizing the return on tax dollars, and how they put the university in the vanguard of enlightened institutions. Private institutions can make the same argument to donors, parents, and students.
  • If a university adopts a systematic plan to promote OA, through its faculty, librarians, and administration, then it should launch a central web site for the plan, and perhaps a newsletter, to explain its many facets, monitor progress, publicize the rationale, and show which elements are still to come.
    • For those who worry about funding this grand plan: Many parts of the plan are either costless or result in net savings. Many others will bring waves of good publicity, which will help the bottom line through improved recruitment and retention, soft money, or alumni loyalty. All parts directly advance the university's mission to share, preserve, and extend knowledge.

Journals and publishers

  • Let authors retain copyright. Ask only for the right of first print and electronic publication.
  • Let authors archive both their preprints and their postprints.
    • See the many journal publishers who already do.
    • Letting authors archive their preprints really means abandoning the Ingelfinger rule; more on this below. Since authors are usually the copyright holders at the time they archive their preprints, journals have no right to block it, only a right to refuse to consider submissions that have previously circulated as preprints; this is what they should reconsider. Letting authors archive their postprints only applies if the journal asks authors to transfer copyright in the postprint to the journal.
    • Allowing these forms of OA isn't a "sacrifice" or "concession" to authors and readers. It gives you a competitive advantage in attracting submissions over journals that do not permit them.
  • Experiment with open access.
    • For example, a journal can give authors the choice between open access and conventional publication. Authors who choose OA must pay an upfront processing fee to cover the journal's costs in vetting and preparing the article. This method was first described by Thomas Walker (here) and later refined by David Prosser (here).
    • Experiment with advertising, priced add-ons, and auxiliary services to generate the revenue needed to cover your expenses, so that you can offer OA to more and more full-text research articles.
    • If you enhance your authors' basic texts with expensive add-ons, consider offering OA to the basic texts and only charging for access to the enhanced edition.
    • If you can't offer immediate OA to full-text articles, then consider offering OA after some delay or embargo period.
  • Reduce your costs by using open-source journal-management software, like Open Journal Systems or DPubS, or high-quality, low-cost services like ICAAP.
  • If you still use the Ingelfinger rule (a policy against accepting papers previously published or publicized), then modify it to permit preprint archiving.
    • If you will accept papers whose preprints have previously been circulated online, say so explicitly on your web site. Many researchers are deterred from preprint archiving by groundless fears of the Ingelfinger rule.
  • Whatever your access policies, post them on your web site and keep them up to date.
    • See my list of the policy details that it would be most helpful to disclose.
    • Both OA and non-OA journals should take this step in order to help potential authors, potential readers, and potential subscribers.
  • Make sure your journal's copyright and archiving policies are accurately listed by Project SHERPA.
  • Consider providing free online access to your article metadata, even if you aren't ready to provide free online access to the articles themselves.
    • If the metadata are harvestable under the OAI protocol, then your articles will be more visible, searchable, and discoverable. Read this case study on how Inderscience, a medium-sized publisher of priced journals in engineering and business, created an OAI-compliant archive to expose the metadata for its publications. Inderscience decided that the OAI methods for sharing metadata were more effective and less expensive than traditional marketing.
    • Book publishers should consider the same strategy.
  • If your back run is not already digital, then participate in the PubMed Central Back Issue Digitization program, which includes PMC-hosted free online access to the newly-digitized back run.
  • Make sure that your publications (OA and non-OA) are indexed by Google Scholar. If not all your publications are in GS, then contact GS.
  • If you are considering the OA business model, then see the BOAI Guide to Business Planning for Converting a Subscription-based Journal to Open Access.
  • Journal editors:  If your publisher resists your efforts to lower the journal price, revise its copyright and archiving policies, or initiate OA experiments, then consider changing publishers.
  • If you are already a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, then:
    • Deposit your accepted papers in an OAI-compliant archive. This additional source for your published papers assures authors and readers that the papers will remain OA even if your journal dies, is bought out, or changes its access policies. For example, both BMC and PLoS deposit all their published papers in PubMed Central.
    • Make sure you are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
    • Make sure your articles are indexed in Google Scholar.
    • Share your business data with researchers studying the OA-journal business model. If you are economically viable, your data will help document the viability of the model and help persuade skeptical publishers to experiment with OA.
    • See Getting your journal indexed from SPARC.
    • You may benefit from the experience of the Public Library of Science. See its guide, Publishing Open-Access Journals, originally released in February 2004, but to be updated as needed.

Learned societies

  • If you publish a journal, consider making it open access.
  • Adopt the policy that all conferences sponsored by your society will provide open access to their proceedings, even if you also choose to publish them in a priced journal or book. See details under "universities", above.
  • Encourage your members to archive their preprints and postprints in open-access, OAI-compliant archives.
  • Endorse open access for all journals, dissertations, and conference proceedings in your field. See the policy statements already made by other learned societies and professional organizations.
  • Maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date online list of OA resources in your field. Societies have more credibility and more resources than individuals, who tend to take the lead in maintaining such guides.


  • Put an OA condition on research grants. By accepting a grant, the grantee agrees to provide open access (OA) to any publications that result from the funded research.
    • The condition can make reasonable exceptions, e.g. for classified military research, patentable discoveries, and works intended to generate revenue.
    • The condition should give grantees a choice of ways to provide OA. In particular, it ought to give grantees the choice between OA archives and OA journals. When grantees choose OA archives, they should be allowed to deposit their work work in any OA archive that meets certain conditions of accessibility, interoperability, and long-term preservation. The interoperability condition could be satisfied by complying with the metadata harvesting protocol of the Open Archives Initiative. Qualifying archives need not be hosted by the foundation or funding agency; they could, for example, be hosted and maintained by universities.
    • For one way to spell out such a policy, see my Model Open-Access Policy for Foundation Research Grants. I don't pretend that foundations could adopt it as is. But it does try to imagine the practical complexities of putting an OA condition on research grants, and it offers contract terms that address these complexities. If my solutions to these problems don't suit a particular foundation, then perhaps my annotations will at least identify some of the issues and help it save time in its deliberations.
    • According to the JISC/OSI Journal Authors Survey Report (February 2004, pp. 56-57), when authors are asked "how they would feel if their employer or funding body required them to deposit copies of their published articles in one or more [open-access] repositories...[t]he vast majority, even of the non-OA author group, said they would do so willingly." (Italics in original.)
  • When a grant recipient publishes the results of funded research in an OA journal that charges a processing fee, offer to pay the fee. Consider the cost of OA dissemination to be part of the cost of research.
    • Even better:  encourage grantees to submit their work to OA journals when there are suitable ones in the field.
    • Even better:  earmark some grant funds for OA journal processing fees. That way grantees will not have to reduce their research funds in order to pay the fees.
  • Give grants to universities to help create institutional eprint archives and to provide the necessary support for filling and maintaining them.
  • Give grants to individual researchers to cover the processing fees charged by open-access journals.
  • Give grants to new open-access journals to help them launch and establish themselves. Give grants to newly formed editorial boards that want to launch new open-access journals.
  • Give grants to open-access journals to cover the processing fees of authors who cannot afford to pay them.
  • Give grants to conventional journals to cover the costs of converting to open access.
  • Give grants to conventional journals to cover the costs of digitizing their back runs, on the condition that they will then provide open access to them.
  • Allow your grants to be used for building endowments for open access journals and archives. Endowed OA journals and archives will not need to seek further funding from any source.
  • Ask researchers applying for grants to deposit their existing peer-reviewed research articles in OA archives, and to maintain a standardized, online CV linking to OA versions of these articles. For more details, see this 2003 article by Stevan Harnad, Les Carr, Tim Brody, and Charles Oppenheim.


  • Put an OA condition on government research grants. By accepting a grant, the grantee agrees to provide open access (OA) to any publications that result from the funded research.
    • See the section on foundations above, for more detail, especially on giving grantees a choice between OA archives and OA journals.
    • Funding agencies could make exceptions for classified research, patentable discoveries, and publications that generate revenue for authors such as books and software.
    • The issues are largely the same between private and public funding agencies. But governments can adopt uniform legislation covering all government agencies that fund research. Governments can also appeal to the taxpayer argument (that taxpayers should not have to pay a second fee for access to the results of taxpayer-funded research) in addition to the return-on-investment argument (that any funding agency will increase the return on its investment in research if it makes the results OA and thereby makes them more discoverable, retrievable, accessible, and useful).
  • Permit recipients of government research grants to use grant funds to pay the processing fees charged by OA journals.
    • See the section on foundations above, for more detail.
  • Provide funds and technical assistance for all universities and research centers in the country to set up and maintain their own OA repositories.
    • One condition of government assistance should be that the institution adopt a policy to encourage or require its researchers to deposit their research output in the repository.
    • The policy could recognize the same exceptions as the OA condition on publicly-funded research grants --e.g. classified military research, patentable discoveries, and revenue-producing publications like books.
  • Provide funds and technical assistance for digitizing and providing open access to the nation's cultural heritage.
  • Insure that, as a matter of law, works produced by government employees in their official capacity are in the public domain. (This is already the case in the United States; see 17 USC 105 and its legislative history.)
    • Treat government-funded works in the same way. In the U.S., the Public Access to Science Act (submitted by Martin Sabo in June 2003) would have this effect.
    • Or learn from the U.S. experience with the Sabo bill by requiring open access itself (through archives or journals), rather than just a legal precondition of open access (the public domain). For details on how to do this, see the section on foundations above. In addition, use copyright-holder consent, rather than the public domain, as the legal precondition for open access, and avoid alienating the important constituencies and legislators who are friendly to both open access and copyright. Finally, make reasonable exceptions e.g. for classified research, patentable discoveries, books, and software. The open-access bill should apply only or primarily to works that authors willingly publish without payment, such as journal articles and dissertations.
  • Consider a nationally-coordinated program to insure open access to the research output of the nation. This was pioneered by Holland with Project DARE. Similar initiatives (with interesting differences) are under consideration or under way in Australia, Canada, Germany, and India.
  • National science ministries or research funding agencies should sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities.
  • Sign the OECD Declaration on Access to Research Data From Public Funding.
  • Consider all 82 of the recommendations in Scientific Publications: Free for All? the exemplary July 2004 report of the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
    • By contrast, do not follow the much-weakened public-access policy of the US National Institutes of Health.


  • See the list of what governments can do. Demand that your government take some of those steps. Talk to your representatives about the issues. Make clear that these issues are important to you, and that you expect your government to support science and the public interest over the private interests of publishers.
  • In particular, demand that publicly-funded research be made available to the public free of charge.

This file has been translated into Italian (partial, November 2005) and Russian (full, April 2007).

Return to the Blog

Return to the Newsletter

Peter Suber
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Senior Researcher, SPARC

Copyright © 2001-2007, Peter Suber.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.