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Actions for University Administrators

This essay was co-authored by Elizabeth Murray and Robert Light, as part of a library school assignment for a course at IUPUI on scholarly communication taught by Kristi Palmer.  It has been edited by the Research and Scholarly Environment Committee before posting.  We appreciate the authors' contribution to the ACRL Scholarly Communication Toolkit.

Open Access Deposit Mandates

One way in which universities (as well as funding agencies) support open access is through the adoption of deposit mandates, which require scholars to submit their research to an online repository.  These mandates can come from universities, departments,(where they are adopted by the faculties themselves) or from funding agencies, and they call for scholars to deposit a range of materials including: articles, conference papers, preprints, theses, dissertations, and research data.  Additionally, the mandates usually include a time frame for submitting materials and include details about the copyright of deposited research.  These mandates benefit authors by increasing the citations and impact of their research, and they give access to scholarship for many independent or underfunded researchers, as well as the general public.  Providing free access for the public is a particularly important concern for research which has been funded by the government through tax dollars.  Currently, there are approximately 339 universities, departments, and funding agencies which have open access mandates, and details about these mandates can be found at ROARMAP: Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies.
Harvard University provides an example of the process of instituting a mandate.  In 2008, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard unanimously decided to require faculty members to submit their work to an online repository.  The mandate specifies the materials to be submitted (articles), and it provides details about the copyright of the articles.  According to the mandate, “the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit”.  This style of “permission-based” mandate has been adopted at many other universities, and an even larger group has instituted open access mandates for students’ theses and dissertations.
In addition to mandates issued by universities and departments, many funding agencies, such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Autism Speaks, are also requiring that the research they have supported be made freely available through a repository.  Notably, in 2007, Congress passed a law which required researchers who received funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to make their research publically available online.  Researchers funded by the NIH must submit their articles to “PubMed Central upon acceptance in peer-reviewed journals and be made publicly available online within 12 months of publication.”
Several proposals to expand the NIH mandate to other government agencies are now pending; one major point of negotiation with journal publishers around these plans involves the length of permitted “embargos.” Publishers are concerned about the future of journal publishing with these mandates, and embargos of 6 or 12 months are intended to for a period of exclusivity during which the journal is the only place to find the article.  In addition to the protests among publishers, some scholars are also worried about how open access mandates will impact their ability to publish.  To accommodate these faculty concerns, most mandates, such as Harvard’s, include an opt-out policy.
Institutional and funder mandates have shown some success in increasing the number of articles freely available to researches and the public.  Initially, many institutions began by suggesting that faculty contribute their research to the institutional repository.  However, making submissions optional meant that many researchers were not choosing to submit their work.  Open access mandates have increased participation and the overall holdings of repositories. According to research done at Indiana University, “a little more than half of the repositories (around 54 percent) display[ed] an increase in their content size” after a mandate went into effect.  However, not all of the repositories benefited from the introduction of an open access mandate: “about 29 percent of repositories show a decrease in their content accumulation rate after the implementation”.[1]  The mixed results of open access mandates suggests that universities and funding agencies need to do more to ensure that researchers participate.  In addition to having a clear mandate in place, universities and funding agencies should “rely on expectations, education, assistance, and incentives, not coercion” (see Suber, Three Principles for University Open Access Policies).  In other words, the policy is not enough to ensure participation; instead, institutions and funding agencies need to provide the help and motivation that researchers need in order to comply with the mandate and make the repository successful.

Support for Fees Associated with Open Access Publications

As of September 2012, the Directory of Open Access Journals listed over 8,000 scholarly publications whose contents were freely available to the public. Open access journals offer free access to the articles that they publish, but still must cover the costs inherent in producing a scholarly publication. While the publishers of some of these titles cover their expenses via institutional subsidies, others charge a fee to authors whose publications are accepted. This is far from a universal practice and many conventional journals also charge authors some form of fees (Source: Suber); however, these fees can present an obstacle to the author hoping to publish in an open access journal. Many funding agencies now include clauses to allow for the use of funds to cover publication fees as part of their grants, including NIH and NSF (Source: BMC). Additionally, some open access publishers, such as Biomed Central and PLoS advertise that they will partially or completely waive fees for authors that are unable to pay, on a case-by-case basis, or waive fees for authors from institutions that purchase a membership.
These solutions do not account for every author fee, though, and so some institutions have established open access publishing funds. These funds are set aside to specifically cover the cost of fees incurred by members of the institution publishing in open access journals (Source: SPARC). These funds are established to encourage faculty to participate in open access publishing and make their work more widely available to the public.  The funds vary from institution to institution, with some only covering completely open access journals, while others can be used to pay publication fees in “hybrid journals,” those that charge subscriptions but will make specific articles free to the public if the author pays a fee. Many organizations resist paying for these “hybrid” fees because it amounts to “double dipping” -- the university pays the fee for the article to become open access, but then also pays to subscribe to the journal in order to get access to the other articles that are not open access.
Starting in 2009, the COPE (Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity) movement began promoting “the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication charges for articles written by its faculty and published in fee-based open-access journals and for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.” (Source: COPE) The first five signatories, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley took the lead in committing financial resources and establishing guidelines for funds dedicated to open access publication fees. (Source: Library Journal 9/15/09). Overseas, the “Finch Report” commissioned by the UK government recommended that higher education institutions should dedicate substantial funding to support the cost of author-side publication fees, which the authors of the report feel should be the dominant model for research publication within the next few years.  As of April 2012, SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) had documented over two dozen open access funds in operation across the United States and Canada (Source: SPARC) and the Open Access Directory lists nearly fifty worldwide (Source: OAD).
The benefits provided by an open access fund seem clear to those who promote open access. Authors can publish in open access journals with the knowledge that their institution will absorb the cost. Readers will have free access to these articles in a timely manner. As for the investing institutions, theoretically, this could lead to more articles being published in an open manner and reduce the number of subscription journals that their libraries must fit into already tight budgets. In reality, however, open access funds are still fairly new endeavors and efforts to measure their true effectiveness are hampered by the lack of data. On some campuses, little money is actually spent on open access publication fees, while for others the funds are outstripped by demand.    There is some disagreement about whether or not these varying results represent a problem or not.  For many institutions that have created a COPE fund, the purpose of COPE is only partly to address the immediate problem that author-side fees may be an obstacle or disincentive for open access publishing. The major goal is to provide a basis for the publication fee model, widely considered more sustainable than subscriptions, to become more established. If a critical mass of institutions commit to assisting with publication charges for their authors, this form of open access could become a more dominant business model, as the Finch Report anticipates.

[1] Xia, Jingfeng et al.  “A Review of Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate Policies.”  portal: Libraries and the Academy 12.1 (Jan. 2012): 85-102.  Project Muse.  Web.  8 Sep. 2012.