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Frequently Asked Questions

Open Access Questions

What is open access?
Open access is the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in a digital environment (definition from SPARC). There are many resources available that discuss the benefits of open access. Start with OU Libraries web page about open access or the chapter about open access in the OU Impact Challenge. There are also foundational readings about open access on this Taskforce's Reading and Resources page.

How does open access benefit me as a faculty author?
The Web makes it possible for faculty authors to share their articles widely, openly, and freely; in addition, research has repeatedly shown that articles available freely online are more often cited and have greater impact than those not freely available.

How does OU benefit from open access?
Open access provides academic institutions increased visibility and presence on the Web and increased impact for research. Open access collections in OU's institutional repository, SHAREOK, help form a complete record of OU's research output in easily accessible form, and it provides the means for OU to manage its research programs more effectively – including the means to measure and assess its research programs. Items in SHAREOKcan help publicize OU's research strengths, providing maximum return on research investment.

What's the difference between open access and open source?
Open source generally refers to software where the source code is available for inspection and/or modification. Some open source software is available for a fee, but much of it is available at no cost. Open access refers to access and availability and could apply to any digital content: software, scholarly literature, music, movies, news, and more.

Is open access compatible with peer-review?
Absolutely. The only exception is for preprints, which are put online prior to peer review but which are intended for peer-reviewed journals at a later stage in their evolution. Peer review is medium-independent and is done on articles in subscription journals, open access journals, print journals, and online journals.

Author Rights & Copyright

Who owns the copyrights to my articles?
You do. At OU, the creator generally owns their copyright, unless they transfer their rights to someone else – typically a publisher via a written or "click-through" contract called a copyright transfer agreement or a publication agreement.

Will I still have copyright if my work is openly available?
The short answer is that it depends on whether you've already transferred your copyrights (see above). If you have not transferred your copyrights, you still own the right to your work, even if it is available openly in SHAREOK.

Does OU get copyright to my works that are in SHAREOK?
You retain your copyright in your items in SHAREOK, assuming you own the copyright to begin with. However, OU Libraries does need a license, which gives them permission to display your work and to transfer it to another platform for preservation purposes.

What if my article has images or figures I didn't produce?
If you rely on fair use to repurpose material without permission, then fair use also applies if you share your article beyond the journal.  If you received permission to use the figure only as it would appear in the journal, you might need to remove it before sharing the article text.  However, it's probable that permission was granted for the article in any format, not only the specific journal version.  It's generally recommended that you try to obtain broad dissemination rights when seeking permissions.

Promotion & Tenure Questions

I don't yet have tenure, so it's important for me to publish in specific journals that aren't open access. What am I supposed to do about that?
The SCTF Report outlines four different ways to achieve open access. Even if you are required to publish in a specific journal that isn't open access, you can still very likely deposit a version of your article in SHAREOK– sometimes after an embargo period. The item record in SHAREOK will link to the published version of your article, so readers with access to the journal subscription can read the published version. Those without a subscription will still be able to read and cite your work if it is available in SHAREOK.

Will having an author's final version of an article in SHAREOK result in citations to two different versions of a work? 
There may be times when both the author's final version and the published version will garner citations, particularly if there is a long time between the deposit of the author's final version and the published version.  The two resources OU scholars have available to help them determine if their work is cited, Web of Science and Google Scholar, account for this in different ways.

  • Web of Science only indexes the published version of an article.  This means that citation counts from Web of Science will not include items in SHAREOK or disciplinary repositories.
  • Google Scholar, frequently indexes multiple versions of an article, but it treats the published version as the primary one (provided it can be crawled and processed), and it groups all versions to determine an overall citation count for ranking purposes in search results.

SHAREOK will always point readers to the published version of a work.

Institutional Open Access Policies

How does an open access (OA) policy work?

  • An OA policy applies to scholarly articles.
  • Under an OA policy, authors publish their work in the venue of their choice.
  • A standard OA policy asks faculty members to provide an electronic copy of the postprint or author’s final version (the version after the article has gone through peer review, revision, and any further copyediting in which the author has been involved) to a responsible university unit, frequently the Provost’s office.
  • Faculty members may request a waiver or an embargo for an article, no justification needed.
  • If no waiver or embargo is applied, the responsible university unit may make the work available in an open access repository; at OU, this would be SHAREOK, the university’s institutional repository.

How does a waiver process work?
The author of a work may request a waiver when providing an article to the responsible university unit.  The responsible unit will approve the waiver.  The article will not be made available in an open access repository.

Does an open access policy require me to publish in an open access journal?
No.  A major benefit of an open access policy is that it allows you to publish in journals of your choosing while giving you greater freedom to share your scholarship with readers who lack access to those journals and who would thus be unable to read your work.

What if my publication agreement is in conflict with an OA policy?
OA policies have been in use for about 15 years and are accepted by most publishers.  The non-exclusive license provided by an OA policy pre-empts the transfer of copyright from author to publisher and allows the author's final version of an article to be made openly available unless the publisher requires the author to seek a waiver.  If a publisher requires exclusive rights in their publication agreements, the author may request a waiver.

What if I have co-authors?
Co-authored works can be deposited.  Authors are encouraged to work with their co-authors to ensure that they are in agreement with archiving their work in an institutional repository.

If I already share my scholarly articles, why the need for an open access policy?
How authors can share their own work vary by discipline and publisher.  Some publishers let you share with others after an embargo period; others are more restrictive or don't address the topic at all.  An institutional open access policy ensures that, at a minimum, you can disseminate the author's accepted manuscript immediately upon publication without the need to negotiate with your publisher.      

If you feel your publisher or funder policies meet your needs, an open access policy is a path to supporting colleagues who don't have those benefits.

Have publishers taken legal action against scholars who have placed the author's final version of an article into an institutional repository?
Institutional members of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI) have reported no legal actions by publishers against scholars depositing the author's final version of an article into an institutional repository.

Which AAUs have institutional open access policies?
Two thirds of AAUs have an institutional open access policy.  A list of AAU institutions with open access policies is available here.

Will an open access policy hurt nonprofit and scholarly society publishers?
An open access policy isn't meant to undermine small journal publishers or library subscriptions.  An open access policy expands the availability of your scholarship to those who cannot access it via institutional or personal subscriptions.  Scholars concerned about this can request a waiver for specific articles and are encouraged to discuss policies with colleagues in scholarly societies.


Some content on this page is based on information from the University of Florida's Smathers Library and the University of Washington's University Libraries.