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UAlbany's Draft Open Access (OA) Policy

Information for the University at Albany community about the draft Open Access Policy

Purpose of the Policy

Why are we doing this?

A UAlbany Open Access Policy would be a powerful, collective statement about the University's commitment to promote the access to and use of our scholarship by the wider public. The primary aim is to make our scholarship more widely available and accessible. We would assert UAlbany author control over the publication of scholarly research, and recognize our responsibility for making that process sustainable and true to the intentions of scholars. We would also be sending a strong collective message to commercial publishers about our values and the system we would like to see put in place.

What does this policy do in plain English?

Through this policy, UAlbany authors would grant the University a nonexclusive license "to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold, and to authorize others to do the same."

In copyright terminology, a license is a grant of permission to exercise your rights under copyright. When you give someone a nonexclusive license, you give the licensee permission to exercise the rights in question, but you also reserve the right to continue exercising these rights yourself and to authorize others to do so.

Through the Policy, then, you have not given the University your copyright; you have simply granted the University permission to exercise your rights under copyright. You retain the copyright in your scholarly articles. And the permissions you have granted to UAlbany do not prevent you from granting permissions to others, including transferring your copyright to a publisher.

In practice, you have given the University permission to reproduce, display, and distribute your articles as long as the articles are not sold, including permission to make open access versions of your articles available in UAlbany's institutional repository, Scholars Archive. The Policy also allows the University to authorize others to use the articles as long as the articles are not sold.

Why require this? Why not just let individual authors choose to do this themselves?

Experience has shown that "opt-in" systems have little effect on authors' behavior. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement in 2008, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy, which took effect in 2005, was optional. Before 2008, compliance was under 20%; as of 2014, the compliance rate was over 80%. On the other hand, "opt-out" systems, such as the draft UAlbany policy achieve much higher degrees of participation, even while remaining non-coercive through the option of seeking a waiver.

Also, a blanket policy provides the benefit of unified action. Individual authors do not need to negotiate directly with publishers, since the policy makes it possible for the University to work with publishers on behalf of UAlbany authors.

What are the advantages for UAlbany authors?

The Internet has enabled individual authors to make their articles widely, openly, and freely available. Research has repeatedly shown that articles available freely online are more often cited and have greater impact than those not freely available, and this trend is increasing over time. Consequently, many UAlbany authors already make their writings available on their web pages, sometimes in violation of copyright law. UAlbany's Open Access Policy would provide a legal mechanism for UAlbany authors to make their writings openly accessible, and it enables the University to help them do so. In effect, the Policy actually allows UAlbany authors to retain their rights in their articles, because the University grants those rights back to them.

Does this policy require that I do anything differently or pay for anything?

No. You can continue to publish as you always have, in the very same journals, and you do not have to pay to publish your articles or pay to deposit them in an open-access repository. 

What do UAlbany authors need to do to comply with the policy?

Not much. You will simply notify the publisher of the policy when signing the final publishing agreement and deposit a copy of the article, upon publication, within UAlbany's repository, Scholars Archive, or a repository of your choosing. 

Can I opt out of this policy?

Yes. The policy allows UAlbany authors to opt out of the provisions of the Policy for an individual article, with no questions asked. You will simply need to complete a waiver form.

Have other institutions adopted this kind of policy?

Yes. The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences pioneered this type of policy in 2008. Since then, other schools at Harvard have adopted similar policies, as have faculty at a number of other institutions large and small, public and private. 

Research funders are supporting similar efforts. For example, the National Institutes of Health have for many years required the posting in an open access repository of articles derived from research they fund. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Wellcome Trust, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also require any scholarly articles on research they fund to be made openly accessible. In January 2014, the European Commission began requiring articles produced with funding from Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation funding program for 2014-2020, to be made open access by the publisher immediately upon publication or to be deposited in a repository and made open access no later than 6-12 months after publication. Similarly, UK Research and Innovation too has an Open Access Policy. On February 22, 2013, the Obama administration issued a directive that requires all federal agencies with annual research and development budgets of $100 million or more to make articles reporting on the results of this research open access after a 12 month embargo period. In September 2018, European funding bodies announced Plan S which will require researchers they fund to publish their articles in fully open access journals or OA platforms starting in 2020.

ROARMAP lists well over 700 open access policies adopted by academic institutions, departments, and research funders worldwide.

Complying with the Policy

What must I do to comply with this policy?

The policy operates automatically to give UAlbany a non-exclusive license to make available all scholarly articles. This policy can be communicated to your publisher when signing the copyright license or assignment agreement in the form of a boilerplate addendum, and simply notifies the publisher that any agreement is subject to this prior license. Part of the implementation plan will include Libraries-led outreach to publishers notifying them of the policy. Whether you use the addendum or not, the license to UAlbany still will have force.

Will being subject to this policy prevent my work from being accepted by the top journals in my field?

A journal's decision to accept your work for publication is made by the journal's editors and peer reviewers, scholars like you. This decision is independent of the "business" side of the journal and usually takes place before you are asked to sign a publication agreement. So no, being subject to the policy will not prevent your work from being accepted in a journal. Any objections to the policy would come from the publisher.

What if a journal refuses to publish my article because of this policy?

Given the experience of other institutions with similar open access policies, this does not happen often, but it can happen. In this case, we recommend that you obtain a no-questions-asked waiver of the policy and proceed with having your paper published in the journal.

I already post the PDFs of my articles to my personal website/ResearchGate/ Why should I bother also submitting my author manuscripts for inclusion in Scholars Archive?

It’s great that you value the principles of open access such that you take the time to share your work freely with the world. However, unless your publication agreement allowed you to retain copyright, by posting your article online you are violating the copyright in the article held by your publisher. We know that the copyright system is not set up to advance the interests of most academic authors, and that not being able to post our own work is counter-intuitive, frustrating, and “unfair." The law is still the law, however, and there is some degree of risk involved in such actions, even if the risk is small.

In short, posting your articles in this way is an individualistic response to the much broader problem of the inaccessibility of published scholarship. On the other hand, the UAlbany Open Access Policy is a response that makes it possible for the University as an institution to help you make your work openly available, and to do so in a legal manner.

Finally, it is worth noting that libraries have been around for thousands of years and are committed to the preservation of, and access to, the human record. Who knows how long ResearchGate,, or even your own website will survive?

Scope of the Policy

Who is covered by the OA Policy?

The OA Policy applies to all UAlbany authors, that is, faculty, students, and staff.

What kinds of writings does the policy apply to?

Only "scholarly articles." In the language of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, scholarly articles are articles that describe the fruits of research and that authors give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Such articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings.

Many of the written products of UAlbany authors are not encompassed in this notion of scholarly article, including: books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, lecture videos, or other copyrighted works. The policy does not address these kinds of works.

I often collaborate with colleagues at other institutions. Does the policy apply to co-authored articles?

Yes. Each joint author of an article holds copyright in the article and individually has the authority to have granted to UAlbany a nonexclusive license. Therefore, if any co-author of an article is a UAlbany author, then that person should comply with the Policy.

What version of the article is submitted under the Open Access Policy?

The author's final version of the article: This is the author's accepted manuscript including any changes made as a result of the peer review process, but prior to the publisher's copy-editing, formatting, and branding. You may submit your manuscript in Word or PDF format.

The Policy targets the author's final peer-reviewed manuscript because most publishers prefer this arrangement, and the University wants to encourage cooperation and partnership with publishers in the implementation of the Policy.

Can't find your final manuscript? The Open Access Button has produced a guide, Direct2AAM, that offers instructions on retrieving Accepted Author Manuscripts (AAMs) from publishers' journal submission systems.

Can you explain the waiver provision? 

The Policy allows a UAlbany author, for any reason at all, to opt out of the provisions of the Policy for an individual article, with no questions asked.

Why does the policy include a waiver provision? Doesn't that undermine the policy? 

Allowing authors to opt out of the Policy preserves their academic freedom to publish in journals that refuse to accommodate the Policy; this is especially important for junior faculty. Even with the opt-out option, the Policy changes the default for authors' rights. The status quo now is that the University has the rights to make articles authored by its UAlbany authors available open access to the world, and the University can grant these rights back to UAlbany authors for their own use. 

For more on waivers, see Stuart Shieber's blog post, "University open-access policies as mandates."

Academic Freedom and the Policy

Can I opt out of this policy?

Yes. The policy allows UAlbany authors to opt out of the grant of license with a no-questions-asked waiver.

Does this policy require me to publish in open access journals?

No. The Policy applies to journal publications but does not in any way dictate in which journals UAlbany authors must publish. You should choose the best forum for your research based on whatever criteria are most relevant. Depending on your discipline, you may or may not find an open access journal that meets your criteria, but whether or not to publish in one is entirely your choice.

Is the University trying to take the rights to my scholarship? 

No. The nonexclusive license granted to UAlbany under the Policy is not an assignment or transfer of copyright. It is simply permission from you, as the copyright holder, to make certain uses of your scholarly articles. You as the author still retain ownership and complete control of the copyright in your articles, subject only to this prior permission. You can exercise your copyrights in any way you see fit, including transferring them to a publisher if you so desire. However, if you do so, UAlbany retains the right to distribute your articles from Scholars Archive and to exercise other rights under copyright, including reproducing, displaying, and distributing the articles, as long as the articles are not sold.

Licensing this broad set of rights to the University essentially allows UAlbany authors to retain their rights in copyright, since the University can grant these rights back to them. The Policy is, in effect, a strategy for UAlbany authors to use the University to help them retain their rights.

Isn't the policy a threat to academic freedom? 

The Policy does not affect your academic freedom—rather, it helps you protect your rights as an academic. The Open Access Policy has nothing to do with your choice of topic, methods, or arena of your research, or where you choose to publish. However, when you do publish, the Policy assists you in retaining rights to your intellectual property, instead of transferring all of those rights to a publisher.

How will this policy affect the promotion & tenure review process? 

The Policy should help faculty in their bid for promotion and tenure. Studies show a large citation advantage for open access articles ranging from 45% to over 500%. The availability of articles in Scholars Archive will make it easier for peers and administrators to access and evaluate the body of a particular UAlbany author's work. And, if an important journal will not cooperate with the Policy, a UAlbany author can rely on the no-questions asked waiver option to publish in their journal of choice.

For more information, SPARC Europe maintains a list of studies on whether or not there is a citation advantage for Open Access articles.