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Open Access

What is open access?

According to Peter Suber, a long-time proponent of open access: "Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the internet and the consent of the author or copyright-holder."

Suber has also made his book Open Access (M.I.T. Press, 2012), available online for free.

In addition, the Budapest Open Access Initiative, provides this definition: "By 'open access' to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these 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. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."

How does open access affect me?

The UC Academic Senate passed an Open Access Policy on July 24, 2013, which went into effect on November 1, 2014, ensuring that research articles authored by faculty at all UC 10 campuses will be made available to the public at no charge. In addition The University of California Presidential Open Access Policy, which covers all scholarly work written by non-Senate faculty, was signed on October 23, 2015.

The Library can assist you in managing your publications in the UC Open Access Publications Management System.

Hundreds of institutions across the globe have adopted similar policies (some more far reaching than UC’s). Browse a list of policies by institution.

What do I need to do to be compliant with the policy?

The following flow charts give a brief overview (click to view larger):

More detailed information is available at the UC Open Access Policy FAQ

What is open access trying to accomplish?

The world of scholarly publishing is increasingly being dominated by companies whose yearly profit margins exceed that of Apple and Google. Taken as a whole, the companies that comprise the academic publishing market boast annual revenues that reach into the tens of billions of dollars. These profits are largely generated by licensing agreements that academic institutions sign on to in order for them to provide access to journals that these companies own. Annual costs to these journals can cost a single campus millions of dollars, and are increasingly dominating individual institution's collections budgets, leaving increasingly little room for other kinds of scholarly materials (such as print materials). The following diagram provides a breakdown of this situation.

(Image from No changes made to Content by Jill Cirasella and Graphic Design by Les LaRue. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.)

Open access attempts to subvert this model by providing avenues for the distribution of scholarly works that exist outside this profit-driven dynamic (and it's certainly no coincidence that some of the strongest lobbying efforts against open access have come from the for-profit publishing world).

How does one make something open access?

When looking to make work open access, there are typically two terms that tend to pop up: “Green OA” and “Gold OA.” These two terms are used to designate a means of making something available, rather than a type of work. Green OA refers to a process where an author self-deposits their work into an open access repository. These repositories can be based at an institution (or, in UC’s case, the system-wide repository eScholarship), or can be organized by discipline (such as PubMed Central or arXiv). Many non-OA publishers allow for works published in their journals to be self-archived, but it is important for authors to understand which version of their manuscript (preprint, postprint, publisher version, etc.) this permission may be granted. Gold OA is when an article is published in an open access journal. In order to cover expenses associated with publishing a journal, some publishers will charge an Article Processing Charge (or APC). Hybrid OA is when a subscription journal allows an article published in their journal to be open access for a free, which is usually paid for by the author.

What are Article Processing Charges and why do I have to pay them?

APC's are typically charged by journal publishers to make an article open access. Publishers argue that APC's help offset the overhead of making a work available (revenue that would otherwise be generated by charging for access to the article). If you are publishing in a journal that requires APC's, you can check here to see if UC receives a discount on those charges.

Do I lose control of my work when it becomes open access?

Not at all. The only way you lose the copyright to your work is if you sign away copyright to a publisher in an Author Agreement. Before signing any Author Agreement, you should make sure that you understand the terms to which you are agreeing to in regards to the ownership of your work. If you're unsure about the copyright policies of a particular publisher / journal, the website Sherpa/Romeo provides publisher copyright policies for over one thousand publishers.

You might also check the copyright terms of individual publishers:

Taylor & Francis
Nature Publishing Group
SAGE Publishing

Another useful resource for understanding how to control your rights to your work is “Keep Your Copyrights,” provided by the Columbia Law School.

What about peer review?

Open access publications are completely compatible with peer-review. In fact, many open access journals have peer-review. One of the misconceptions about open access is that it provides for a less rigorous vetting system. Not all open access journals are built the same, however. As in any enterprise, there are good options, and not-so-good options. Before contributing to any journal, one should, of course, do a little bit of research into that journal’s history and operating structure.

How do I find reputable open access journals?

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a good place to start. All entries in the DOAJ are by application only hoping to ensure that only journals with ethical business practices are listed.

What about impact factors?

A resource such as InCites Journal Citation Reports provides information in measuring a journal’s impact factor (be sure to check the “Open Access” box in the filters). By compiling articles' cited references, JCR helps to measure research influence and impact at the journal and category levels, and shows the relationship between citing and cited journals.

Need more information?

If you'd like more information on the UC Open Access Policy, open access in general, or other matters related to scholarly publishing, please schedule a consultation:

The Library at UCSB also provides a very good list of resources.