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About Oberlin's Open Access Policy

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What is the rationale for the policy?

Open Access Policies have a philosophical and a practical component. Philosophically, they express the conviction that the wide dissemination of scholarly knowledge is a good in itself. Practically, they are rooted in three considerations: first, the acknowledgement that the current system of dissemination - in which for-profit journals charge rapidly increasing access fees to individuals or institutions - presents serious problems in terms of access to scholarship; second, the ironic realization that significant barriers to access are increasing at a time when the Internet makes wide dissemination easier and cheaper than ever before; and finally, the recognition that increased access to faculty production is good for faculty and their institutions, both in terms of public relations and the advancement of knowledge and scholarship. Besides expressing Oberlin's principled commitment to the dissemination of the knowledge produced by its faculty, the Open Access Policy (OAP) will have several specific advantages for the institution and for individual faculty. It will help ensure that research articles created by Oberlin faculty are broadly available to students and scholars at other institutions and also to the general public, thus maximizing potential readership around the globe. It will also be a significant step forward in Oberlin's efforts to publicize better to the outside world the high level of intellectual and scholarly engagement and productivity on campus.

What other institutions have similar policies?

Policies similar to Oberlin's have been passed at several universities and colleges, including Harvard, MIT, Duke, Stanford, University of Kansas, Trinity University (San Antonio) and Rollins College. Other organizations with a vested interest in scholarship are independently supporting such efforts as well. For instance, the Wellcome Trust requires any scholarly articles on research they fund to be made openly accessible. The National Institutes of Health, by congressional legislation, have instituted a similar requirement, mandating posting in the open-access PubMed Central repository. A full list of academic and funder open access policies that have been adopted is ROARMAP.

What rights do I, as an author, have under copyright law?

Under current U.S. copyright law, original works that are "fixed in a tangible medium" are covered by copyright at the time of their creation. Creators have five exclusive rights related to their works: reproduction, distribution, adaptation, performance, and display. The right of distribution allows authors to publish their works and also transfer their rights in the process of publication. Creators may also license any or all of their rights under copyright to others in order to exert control over how their works may or may not be used. Licenses can be either exclusive (prohibiting anyone else from exercising the right) or non-exclusive.

What is the institutional license that is incorporated into the policy?

Oberlin College in the institutional license. In practice, the Open Access Policy should allow faculty to retain more rights to their work than is generally the case now. Most publication contracts are written such that scholars sign away practically all of their rights. The OAP will help limit the sway that publishers currently hold over scholarly production.

What kinds of writings does the policy apply to?

The policy only covers articles published in peer-review journals, but faculty are encouraged to report and submit all of their publications and other forms of scholarship (e.g., essays in collections, reviews, articles in non-peer-reviewed journals, etc.).

Does the policy apply to articles I wrote before the policy was adopted on November 17, 2009?

No, it doesn't apply to any articles that were completed before the policy was adopted, nor to any articles for which you entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy was adopted. The policy also does not apply to any articles you write after leaving Oberlin College. All Oberlin authors are, however, encouraged to submit earlier publications. The Library is also working with faculty to list and make openly accessible earlier publications.

May I make the final published version of my article openly accessible in the institutional repository?

Yes, authors may make the final published versions of their articles available, so long as they have the rights to do so. Many journals allow open access to final published versions of articles, but often after a specific embargo period. An author may substitute the final published version of an article for the final author manuscript at any time. Digital Commons will always cite the final published version in the repository metadata record. Final published versions of articles will be made openly accessible whenever possible.

Does the policy apply to co-authored papers?

Yes. Each joint author of an article holds copyright in the article and, individually, has the authority to grant Oberlin College a non-exclusive license. Joint authors are those who participate in the preparation of the article with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of the whole.

What's in it for me?

The Internet and web have enabled individual faculty to make their articles widely, openly, and freely available. Numerous research studies indicate that articles available freely online are more often cited and have greater impact than those not freely available. Many faculty already make their writings available on their web pages, sometimes in potential violation of copyright law and sometimes through individual copyright negotiations with publishers. The Open Access Policy will allow you to make your writings openly accessible in a manner that helps insure copyright compliance and long-term preservation and access.

Will Oberlin's Open Access Policy make it harder for me to get my scholarship accepted for publication?

No. For acceptance to be affected, the editor of the journal or the publisher would have to reject articles in advance of peer review, based on the author's institutional affiliation and knowledge of the institution's OAP. There is no evidence of that occurring.

What if a journal publisher refuses to allow me to make my article openly accessible in Oberlin's institutional repository?

You have a number of options. One is to opt out of the license under the policy. Alternatively, you can work to persuade the publisher that it should accept Oberlin College 's non-exclusive license in order to be able to publish your article, or you could seek a different publisher. The Scholarly Communications Officer will assist in the process of working with publishers and addressing their specific concerns.

What will Oberlin College do with the articles it has license to?

The policy simply allows Oberlin to make your article openly accessible in an online repository. The College has set up an open-access repository called Digital Commons. The repository is managed by the Oberlin College Library with oversight from the General Faculty Library Committee.

Can my articles be used to provide search or other services by companies such as Google?

Yes, consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles, the license allows Oberlin College to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use the articles to provide search or other services, so long as the articles are not being sold for a profit. For instance, the license allows Oberlin to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, so that they can more readily be found.

Will an Open Access Policy change the scholarship expectations for reappointment, tenure, and promotion?

No. No such change is under consideration.

How will an institutional Open Access Policy affect junior faculty?

The opt-out provision gives junior faculty full freedom to simply accept the publisher's terms, if they do not wish to enter into discussions about retaining rights to make their work openly accessible by, for example, adding the SPARC addendum to the publishing agreement. It is also likely that junior faculty who would like their work to be openly accessible will be in a somewhat strong position because of the institutional OAP in their discussions with publishers.

How does the Open Access Policy affect people other than teaching faculty?

Administrative and Professional Staff who publish peer-reviewed articles are covered by the institution-wide license; they, too, can opt out for any given article with no questions asked.

Isn't open access more of an issue for the sciences than other disciplines?

Open access policies are desirable in all disciplines. They increase access to scholarship. Similar have been adopted with strong faculty support in the fields of law, education, government, foreign languages, and arts and sciences generally.

Last updated:
March 7, 2019