How does this work?
Copyright, authorship and scientific publication can be a complex and at times frustrating. We aren't lawyers or legal experts, but hope the following can help you understand your rights as authors of scientific works.
Open access and re-publication
The term open access refers to a scientific publication being freely accessible to readers. No registration, membership or payments are required to access the work.
We believe that open access science means better science, as means less boundaries exist between scientific results, scientist and the public. This can not only accellerate and diversify the scientific endeavour, but also increase the transparency and trust in the scientific process.
Funders are increasingly mandating that work shall be published open access (e.g. the Horizon 2020 programme). In this context you might come accross green and gold open access.
- Green open access
Depositing a version of the manuscript in an online repository (e.g. university library or arXiv) before
or after its publication in a journal or book.
Also referred to as self-archiving and the praxis of depositing a manuscript version open access after publication in an non open access journal is also referred to re-publishing.
- Gold open access
- Paying a publisher to publish the manuscript open access on their website.
See also the definitions and requirements by the EU Horizon 2020 Programme.
When and why is this allowed?
As open access publishing is becoming good, and sometimes mandated, scientific practice, publisher have incentives to make this possible. Journals and publishers therefore come with a variety of fee structures and policies surrounding open access publication.
But, paying a journal to make your research publications open access is not the only way you can liberate your science from paywalls and expensive journal subscriptions. Many publishers actually allow publishing a freely accessible version of the article, separate from the journal. This may actually not be out of the kindness of their heart but because a countries' copyright laws forces them to do so (e.g. Germany's Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht).
Depending on the journal's policy, you can upload your work to an institutional archive (e.g. your university library), a preprint server like arXiv or your personal website. The policies usually distinguish between the submitted, accepted and published version of a document. Most often you are allowed to re-publish the accepted or submitted version, without having to pay the publisher.
Most policies require you to link the freely accessible version back to the paywalled version. This helps to make sure that other publications end up citing the main version of the article. At the same time, having a free copy available, more people are able to find your research.
We have also written a step-by-step how-to guide for re-publishing.
On this page and elsewhere you will come across terms that require explanation. These are our attempts of explaining them, publishers interpretation or usage might deviate.
- Published version
- Version of a manuscript published by e.g. a journal. This is usually a PDF file that has the journals logo and copyright notice on it and is typeset to the style of the journal.
- Accepted version
- Final version of the manuscript sent by the author(s) to the publisher. This is the result of the peer review process and includes changes and corrections by the author(s), but not the copy-editing and typesetting done by the publisher. Content should be the same as the published version, but appearance might differ strongly.
- Submitted version
- What was initially submitted for peer review. Content might differ strongly from the accepted version.
See also the blog post on this topic by the University of Cambridge Office of Scholarly Communication.
Policies on self-archiving/re-publication often refer to repositories where you are allowed to deposit a manuscript. Repositories come in a variety of forms, but are generally preferable to hosting the manuscript on a personal or institutions website. Repositories are often indexed by scholarly search engines and tools like Unpaywall.
By using indexed repositories you can not only make your work open access but also more discoverable.
Usually you can either use an institutional or subject repository. Examples are:
- arXiv subjects: physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance, statistics, electrical engineering and systems science, and economics
- bioRxiv subject: biology
- PubMed and Europe PMC subjects: health-related sciences
- HZI repository institution: Helmholtz Centre for Infection research
- QMRO institution: Queen Mary University of London
See also the explanation of repositories by Queen Mary's library.
To find open access repositories you can use OpenDOAR.
To ensure that your open access version of a manuscript can easily be found check the list of sources for Unpaywall.
Multiple authors and re-publication
A frequent question by authors is whether they have to get their co-authors to consent before re-publishing a manuscript. We can not answer this question for all cases, as copyright law, publisher policy and publication contracts could vary greatly. Furthermore we are no legal experts.
What we can say is:
- It probably doesn't hurt and we would hope that most scientist agree that open access re-publication is to the benefit authors, science and society.
- In German copyright joint authorship means that copyright is held jointly, meaning that publication decisions have to have the consent of all authors. It is worth noting that these decisions fall under good faith, so authors can't arbitrarily withhold their consent.
If you are uncertain about any of this, we are happy to try and help, but others might be better equipped to answer your questions:
- Librarians. Many are advocates for open science and might even be able to help you re-publish.
- Funders. Often keen on open access and might have resources specific to your country.
- Publishers. They might prefer you to pay to make your manuscript open access, but are the ones writing the policies.