Open Access De-Mystified - Part III

by Cheryl Truesdell

This is part three of a four-part series on Open Access (see also Part I and Part II). Open access seeks to provide scholarly literature online, free of charge, and free of most copyright restrictions. This month we look at Open Access repositories.

Part III: OA Repositories

Another way that authors can provide open access to their research is through Open Access (OA) repositories, such as IPFW's Opus http://opus.ipfw.edu/. The purpose of most OA repositories is to collect, preserve, and disseminate the intellectual output of an academic institution (e.g. IPFW) or a discipline (e.g. PubMed Central, a free full-text archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the National Library of Medicine). OA repositories are not publishers, but provide access to scholarship published elsewhere. The OA repository seeks to facilitate scholarly communication by providing barrier-free access to everyone in contrast to the narrow readership of most journals.

The greatest barrier to open access via institutional repositories is the continued transfer of exclusive copyright by authors to publishers. Faculty often do not understand their rights or are afraid their work won't get published if they exercise their rights. While many publisher contracts still request a complete transfer of copyright to the publisher, publishers actually only need the right to publish the work, not a complete transfer of all rights.

Faculty, universities, and public and private research-granting organizations such as the NIH and NSF, are working with publishers to retain authors' rights to post some version of their published work in an open access repository. The faculty senates of over 150 universities, including the Big Ten Plus Two have endorsed the use of an addendum to publication agreements http://www.cic.net/Libraries/Library/authorsrights.sflb that ensures that academic authors retain rights that allow posting in an open access repository and use in any of the author's academic professional activities. Recent surveys show that, even if they don't like it, most publishers will accept the rights-retention policy of the NIH, research institutes, and universities, for when large organizations or many smaller organizations adopt strong policies, publishers have little choice but to accommodate them. Recent surveys show that, even if they don't like it, most publishers will accept the rights-retention policy of the NIH, research institutes, and universities, for when large organizations or many smaller organizations adopt strong policies, publishers have little choice but to accommodate them. (Suber, Open Access and Copyright, SPARC Open Access Newsletter http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/newsletter/07-02-11.htm, July 2, 2011. See the Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies http://roarmap.eprints.org/ for a list of institutions that have endorsed the deposit of published articles in open access repositories.

Some public and private research granting organizations now require that authors publishing grant-funded research results retain the right to publish in an open access repository. A bill presently before Congress, Federal Public Access Act (FRPAA) http://www.taxpayeraccess.org/issues/frpaa/index.shtml, would require all research articles published as a result of major US-funded research be archived in the author's university repository.

Because of this trend, a majority of publishers now allow posting of some version of published articles in open access repositories. In his Open Access Overview, Peter Suber writes that one of the best-kept secrets of scholarly publishing is that faculty "may publish in nearly any journal that will accept their work (OA or non-OA) and still provide OA to the peer-reviewed text through an OA repository," but faculty have to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity offered by publishers. The website Sherpa/RoMeo http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/ provides a searchable database of the myriad of publisher policies concerning copyright and open access archiving.

IPFW's Opus: Research and Creativity at IPFW http://opus.ipfw.edu/ is one of a growing number of open access repositories around the world. The Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) http://roar.eprints.org/ and the Directory of Open Access Repositories http://www.opendoar.org/ provide lists of OA repositories by country and type, with data on content, use, and impact on worldwide scholarly communication.

Next issue, a look at the future of open access and scholarly communication.