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Scholarly Communication and Open Access: About Open Access

What is Open Access?


As academic  journal costs continue to skyrocket, fewer interested parties are able to access the fruits of scholarly research. Open Access (OA) literature, as defined by Peter Suber, is “digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” Open Access removes both price and permission barriers to the access of scholarly literature. The benefits of Open Access largely related to this increased access. Work published or distributed in an Open Access scheme often sees increased citation counts due to increased access. Also, Open Access work is able to reach important potential audiences, including working professionals without access to academic libraries and fellow scholars in the developing world.

Types of Open Access

Types of Open Access

There are two main ways to achieve the goals of Open Access:

Green OA: This is the online archiving of work published in non-OA journals by its authors. There are various sorts of repositories that allow for this type of archiving, among them Miami’s Scholarly Commons. The various publishers all have different policies about what authors are allowed to archive and in what form they may archive their work.  Miami University Libraries will assist Miami researchers in archiving their work to obtain the widest possible readership while remaining compliant with publisher copyright restrictions.

Gold OA: This is publishing in Open Access journals. All academic disciplines are seeing the proliferation of high-quality Open Access journals. You can find these journals by searching the Directory of Open Access Journals at


P&T Concerns: Some scholars are concerned with the impact of publishing in OA journals on promotion and tenure, due to the fact that some OA journals are less established and therefore have lower Impact Factors or have no Impact Factor at all. A solution to this problem is to follow a green OA model by publishing in established journals and then self archiving the work to increase access.

Plagiarism:  Work posted to online repositories is no more likely to plagiarized than any other published work. Green OA models assume prior publication. Even in cases where an author chooses to archive an unpublished pre-print or a conference presentation, the posting is timed and dated, providing proof of prior art in any plagiarism disputes.

Copyright: Some authors fear publisher reprisal from the self-archiving of their work. Different publishers have different policies related to self-archiving and the rights that authors retain can be confusing. The Miami University Libraries will be happy to help faculty navigate this process and to keep them compliant.

Embargos Explained

In academic publishing, an embargo is a period during which access to academic journals is not allowed to users who have not paid for access (or have access through their institution). The purpose of this is to protect the revenue of the publisher.

Various types exist:

  • A 'moving wall' is a fixed period of months or years. In academic publishing, a moving wall is the time period between the last issue of an academic journal available in a given online database and the most recently published print issue of a journal. It is specified by publishers in their license agreements with databases (like JSTOR), and generally ranges from several months to several years

  • A fixed date is a particular time point that does not change.

  • A current year (or other period) is setting a time point on Jan. 1 of the current year, so that all material earlier than that is available. Although fixed during the year, it will change each year.

There are various purposes:

  • For delayed open access journals, the embargo separates the most recent period, for which a subscription is needed, from an older period, where a subscription is not needed and anyone may access the article. This can range from a few months to several years.

  • In full-text databases, such as those of EBSCO Publishing or ProQuest, it separates the most recent period, where only a title or abstract is available, from an older one, which is openly accessible.

In copyright agreements (also known as copyright transfer agreements, license agreements, author agreements), a publisher may stipulate that an author cannot upload his or her article to an institutional repository, subject repository, or institutional website for a fixed period of time after publication in the journal.  When that fixed period has elapsed, an author may then make his or her work available through one of those methods.

OA Policies

An open access resolution (sometimes called an open access policy or an open access mandate) is a policy that makes peer reviewed, published articles openly available. Open access resolutions can take many forms, but – in general – the faculty at an academic institution agree upon and vote on policy language to place their work in an institutional repository, such as Miami’s Scholarly Commons.

Open access resolutions are a fantastic way to make scholarly outputs publicly available, and they are included in the green road to open access. Many resolutions are written to include prior license – that is, authors license their work to the university repository prior to licensing it (or signing away their copyright) to a publisher. This is an important distinction, because supersedes any copyright transfer agreement that an author may have signed with a publisher.

The Miami University Librarians passed an open access policy in May, 2012. This means that librarians are required to deposit their scholarly output in the Scholarly Commons or publish in an open access journal (or both). The librarians’ policy is based on Harvard University’s open access policy.

Faculty at many other academic institutions have also passed open access policies, and the list is growing. ROARMAP is a registry of world wide institutions with an open access policy.