The information people use is increasingly available online, often for free, and scholarly publications are no exception. Open access scholarly publications are, as Peter Suber describes them, “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions,” and they may be available at a publisher’s website or placed in a repository by an author. Open access journals are proliferating, as are open access policies at institutions of higher education. Why the growing interest among scholars in choosing open access?
If you want your writing to reach as many people as possible, why limit your audience to those who can pay?
Open access removes barriers between readers and scholarly publications. Widespread open access is new enough that there is still research and debate about how much open access availability improves citation rates. But what is clear is that open access works are read more and have higher download rates. There are simple, free, and legal ways that you can increase your readership and reach new communities of scholars and the general public. Learn how to take advantage of author archiving or publisher-hosted open access.
Health care providers. High school students. People in developing nations. Taxpayers. Open access articles can be reached by anyone with an internet connection. Other scholars in your field may be your primary audience, but the world is full of people who may be enriched by reading scholarly publications. Public service lies at the heart of the University of California’s mission, and sharing the university’s research output is a way to give back to the public and to demonstrate the value of academic work. Learn more:
- Read about the UC Open Access Policies, adopted by UC faculty and later expanded to cover all UC employees. These policies help fulfill the university’s public service mission by enabling UC authors to make their scholarship “available to the people of California and the world.”
- Hear a 16-year-old winner of the Intel Science Fair talk about how he relied on open access articles to develop a breakthrough in diagnosing pancreatic cancer.
- Watch the PHD Comics video What Is Open Access?
- Visit the Right to Research Coalition, a student organization advocating that “Access to Research is a Student Right.”
Governments, universities, and funding agencies — all interested in the value of their investment in scholarly research — are increasingly requiring that the publications derived from grant-funded research be made publicly available.
- The Policies & Legislation page has more details about federal and state requirements.
- The UC Open Access Policies section has more information about the University of California Open Access Policies.
- SHERPA/JULIET tracks the open access policy requirements of research funders all over the world, and ROARMAP tracks both funder policies and institutional (e.g., university and college) policies.
Author-Archived Open Access (Green)
Many authors publish articles in journals that only provide access to paid subscribers. In many cases, these authors can still ensure broad access to their work by posting a version of these articles in an open access repository. This type of open access is sometimes called “Green” open access to distinguish it from publisher-hosted or “Gold” open access.
Hundreds of universities in the United States – and thousands around the world – host open access institutional repositories to highlight the research and publications of their faculty. The eScholarship repository and publishing platform enables the UC academic community to post previously published works; distribute pre-prints, working papers, theses and dissertations; and publish new materials such as books, journals, and conference proceedings.
Subject repositories are open to scholars all over the world who publish work in a particular discipline. Some of the larger ones include:
- RePEc: Research Papers in Economics
- arXiv: Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics
- SSRN: Social Science Research Network
- PubMed Central: Biomedicine and Life Sciences
Copyright and Contracts
Publishers generally require authors to sign a publishing agreement as a condition of publication. These agreements spell out the rights of the authors and the publishers, and they often restrict an author’s right to post a publication in an open access repository. UC’s Open Access Policies limit those restrictions. (See below.)
UC Open Access Policies
UC authors are covered by the UC Open Access Policies. These policies allow authors to post scholarly articles in eScholarship or another repository regardless of the terms of their publishing agreement, as long as the agreement was signed after the adoption of the policy. As long as your publisher does not request a waiver of the UC policy and your publication is covered by the policy, you are fully empowered to make the author’s final version of your article openly available immediately upon publication. Learn more about the UC Open Access Policies.
Publications not covered by the UC Open Access Policies
The UC Open Access Policies does not give authors rights to post
- articles written by authors who are not UC employees (e.g. many students);
- articles for which an agreement was signed before the policies were passed;
- articles for which authors have obtained a waiver of the policy;
- publications that are not “scholarly articles,” e.g., books, popular articles, musical scores, creative fiction, etc.
For any of these publications, you will want to check your publishing agreement, before attempting to post in a repository, to see what conditions you originally agreed to. If you don’t have your old agreements, or want to know about the policies of journals you’re thinking about publishing in, you can search the SHERPA/RoMEO database to find out which publishers and journals allow open access archiving.
For more in depth information about copyright, visit the UC Copyright site.
Publisher-Hosted Open Access (Gold)
Many publications are openly available for free viewing at the website of their publisher. In the case of commercial publishers, this open access model often requires the author or funder to pay the publisher an article publication charge (APC) up front. Learn more about who pays and other ways to make your work freely available to readers.
UC Press, Open Humanities Press, and Springer are just a few of the publishers that are now publishing open access ebooks. Some are free online but also available for purchase in print. Some are open access immediately; others become open access after a period of being restricted for sale only. You can find thousands of them at the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB).
eScholarship publishes open access books for University of California departments, research units, and publishing programs. Open access UC book series include:
- Perspectives in Medical Humanities (UC Medical Humanities Consortium)
- California Classical Studies (UCB; Mellon funded)
- The Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press (UCLA)
- Learning in the Arts and Sciences (UC Irvine)
Thousands of journals all over the world publish articles without charging readers for access. You can search the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) for a journal in your discipline, or you can browse by subject, country, or whether they charge authors an article processing charge (APC).
When publishing in a journal that charges APCs, you can check this list of UC Discounts to see whether UC scholars are eligible for a reduced rate.
eScholarship publishes over 70 open access journals for University of California departments, research units, and publishing programs, whether those journals are just starting up or transitioning from another platform or publisher. Popular journals in eScholarship include
- Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History (UC Riverside)
- Berkeley Planning Journal (UC Berkeley)
- Dermatology Online Journal (UC Davis)
- The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine (UC Irvine)
- The Journal of Transnational American Studies (UC Santa Barbara)
Some publishers allow authors, for a fee, to make their individual articles open access within a subscription journal. This approach is called “hybrid” open access. Read more about hybrid journals at SPARC Europe and the Australian Open Access Support Group.