Teaching about Open Access Without Saying “Open Access”

Do you know anyone who, full of misconceptions about open access, has a knee-jerk negative reaction to discussions of open access?  I certainly do.  Correcting the misconceptions that float around CUNY (and everywhere) about open access (e.g., the mistaken notion that “open access” means “vanity publishing,” the fear that open access leads to more plagiarism, the failure to realize that openness and rigorous peer review are completely independent issues) will take years of patient instruction.  One tactic to try now is teaching about open access without actually uttering the phrase “open access.”  I decided to give that approach a whirl in Brooklyn College’s upcoming newsletter for faculty; here is what I wrote:

After a journal accepts your article, you have to sign a copyright agreement — usually long, dense, and difficult to understand.  What exactly are you agreeing to when you sign that document?  Historically, you were signing away all rights to your article — only the publisher could copy, distribute, and republish your work.  Often, the agreement even prohibited you from sharing copies of your article with colleagues or students.  But you signed because you had to, because that’s what people who wanted tenure did.

Now, the vast majority of journals have more author-friendly agreements.  Some journals let authors retain copyright and simply ask for a license to the work.  Some journals still claim copyright but then give authors back a variety of rights, including the right to post the article online on a personal website, a disciplinary repository (e.g., arXiv, SSRN, RePEc), or an institutional repository (coming soon to CUNY, we hope!).  Some journals allow authors to self-archive the pre-refereed version of the article; some journal allow authors to self-archive the post-refereed version; some journals even allow authors to self-archive the final, formatted PDF version!  More specifically, according to SHERPA/RoMEO, a tool that summarizes journals’ copyright and self-archiving policies:

  • 87% of scholarly journals allow immediate self-archiving of some version of the article
  • 27% of scholarly journals allow immediate self-archiving of the pre-refereed version of the article
  • 44% of scholarly journals allow immediate self-archiving of the post-refereed version of the article
  • 16% of scholarly journals allow immediate self-archiving of the final, published PDF
  • After the expiration of embargo periods (usually 6 to 24 months), 94% allow self-archiving of the post-refereed or PDF version of the article

So, chances are that you have the right to make most of your articles freely available online.  Take advantage of your rights!  If you do, more readers will find your work, and more researchers will cite your work!  Learn more at the presentation about authors’ rights on Faculty Day (May 22)!

Yes, that blurb is entirely about green open access.  Nope, I didn’t use the phrase “open access” once.  If you know any open access naysayers, give this tactic a try.  And, of course, feel free to use (or improve upon!) my language.

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About Jill Cirasella

Jill Cirasella is the Associate Librarian for Public Services and Scholarly Communication at the Graduate Center, CUNY.
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