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Ask A Librarian

Open Access

This guide provides an overview of Open Access and related issues.

What rights do I have to my published works?

Author Rights

When you write a paper, you automatically own the copyright to your work unless and until you explicitly transfer your copyright to another party through a written agreement. Your copyright is really a bundle of rights that includes exclusive rights to your work, including:

  • Reproduction
  • Distribution
  • Public performance
  • Public display
  • Creation of derivate works

When your article is reviewed and accepted for publication in a journal, you will be asked to sign an agreement to allow the journal to publish your work. Many journals use copyright transfer agreements as their standard publication agreement. If you sign a copyright transfer agreement with a publisher, you transfer your copyright to the publisher. Unless the agreement includes provisions allowing you to retain some of your rights, you may no longer have the right to place your work on websites or researcher profile pages (e.g. ResearchGate,, use your work in teaching your courses, reuse the work in subsequent works, or deposit the work in an online digital archive.

When you publish your paper, it's important to think about the rights you wish to retain. Transferring your copyright does not have to be an all or nothing affair, and some publishers are willing to negotiate which rights are transferred and which you may retain.

Are there different kinds of Open Access?

There are three different types of Open Access:

  1. Open Access self-archiving -- authors publish in a subscription journal, but also make their articles freely accessible online, either by placing them in an institutional repository or in a central repository such as PubMed Central.
  2. Open Access publishing -- authors publish in open access journals that make their articles freely accessible online immediately upon publication. Open access journals conduct peer review and allow authors to retain their copyright. These journals sometimes meet their expenses by charging the author a publication fee. Examples of OA publishers are BioMed Central and Public Library of Science (PLoS). There are currently more than 3,200 OA publications listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals.
  3. Hybrid Open Access -- Some traditional, subscription-based publishers have introduced a "hybrid open access" concept. In this model, the publisher will make an article immediately available to the public if the author pays an additional open-access fee. Frequently referred to as an "open choice" or "paid access" charge, these fees can range from $500-$3,100 per article. Publishers participating in this model include Elsevier, Springer, and Wiley.

Myths & Facts

This information is summarized from a Boston College Libraries Newsletter (Spring 2011) article.

Myth:  Open Access is a subversive movement that will ultimately undermine our copyright system.

Fact: Open Access works entirely within our current copyright system. Your work as an author is copyrighted to you the moment you fix it in a tangible medium of expression (typing it into Word and clicking Save, for example). You retain that copyright until you give some or all of it away.

Myth: Open Access will destroy the scholarly publishing system and cause journals to fail.

Fact: New models are emerging in scholarly publishing. One safeguard that many journals implement is a time-limited embargo on open access. Journals recoup most of the publishing costs within the first year of publication. Articles can then be made open access without loss of revenue.
Many journal publishers (Oxford, Cambridge, Wiley, Sage, etc.) have also decided to change their business model from subscription-only, cost-recovery, to a hybrid model, in which open accesss articles are published alonside traditional ones. Article processing fees are charged to recoup the publishers' costs. Hybrid journal policies should be examined carefully, however; some allow free access to the article but do not allow any of the derivative uses associated with true open access. See "When is Open Access Not Open Access?"

Myth: Open Access journals are not peer-reviewed and are of low quality.

Fact: Open Access journals, just like any other journal, can be peer-reviewed or not, depending on the journal policy. The fact that the journal is open access says nothing about whether it is peer-reviewed. Most scholarly open access journals are peer-reviewed.

Myth: If I want to publish open access I have to submit my article to an open access journal.

Fact: You can submit and publish your article in any journal you like and still make it available open access in our research repository, WVUScholar, provided the author agreement you signed with the publisher allows this. You just need to plan for this in advance. You can send the article to WVUScholar at the same time that you submit it to the journal of your choice, giving WVU the right to make it available (subject to an embargo period if you like). If the journal you're publishing with doesn't include the right to deposit to your University's repository in their standard author agreement, consult our OA FAQs page for instructions on how to modify the argreement.

Myth: If I try to retain some rights, publishers will think I am difficult and will not want to publish my work.

Fact: Publishers are very used to dealing with these requests at this point. Far from being unusual, the retention of rights by authors is becoming a mainstream choice.  Approximately 60% of academic journals allow some form or open access archiving without any use of an addendum to the contract.  For a searchable database of publisher policies about copyright and archiving, explore the SHERPA/RoMEO site.

Myth:  Publishing my work open access is a nice, altruistic thing to do, but there is nothing in it for me.

Fact: Open access publishing does help address inequities in access to knowledge globally. Few people in the world have access to the resources we have here at WVU. But, in addition, most studies show a clear citation advantage for open access publications. Open access publications are cited more often than those that are subscription-only and citation counts are still important factors in tenure and promotion decisions.

Open Access Resources