Oct 25, 2013

It’s Easy Being Green (Open Access)


This is the first installment of the Open Science Toolkit, a recurring feature that outlines practical steps individuals and organizations can take to make science more open and reproducible.

Photo of Frank

Congratulations! Your manuscript has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication in a journal. The journal is owned by a major publisher who wants you to know that, for $3,000, you can make your article open access (OA) forever. Anyone in the world with access to the Internet will have access to your article, which may be cited more often because of its OA status. Otherwise, the journal would be happy to make your paper available to subscribers and others willing to pay a fee.

Does this sound familiar? It sure does to me. For many years, when I heard about Open Access (OA) to scientific research, it was always about making an article freely available in a peer-reviewed journal -- the so-called “gold” OA option -- often at considerable expense. I liked the idea of making my work available to the widest possible audience, but the costs were too prohibitive.

As it turns out, however, the “best-kept secret” of OA is that you can make your work OA for free by self-archiving it in an OA repository, even if it has already been published in a non-OA journal. Such “green” OA is possible because many journals have already provided blanket permission for authors to deposit their peer-reviewed manuscript in an OA repository.

The flowchart below shows how easy it is to make your prior work OA. The key is to make sure you follow the self-archiving policy of the journal your work was published in, and to deposit the work in a suitable repository.

Click to enlarge.Flowchart showing how to
archive your research

Journals typically display their self-archiving and copyright policies on their websites, but you can also search for them in the SHERPA/RoMEO database, which has a nicely curated collection of policies from 1,333 publishers. The database assigns a code to journals based on how far in the publication process their permissions extend. It distinguishes between a pre-print, which is the version of the manuscript before it underwent peer review, and a post-print, the peer-reviewed version before the journal copyedited and typeset it. Few journals allow you to self-archive their copyedited PDF version of your article, but many let you do so for the pre-print or post-print version. Unfortunately, some journals don’t provide blanket permission for self-archiving, or require you to wait for an embargo period to end before doing so. If you run into this problem, you should contact the journal and ask for permission to deposit the non-copyedited version of your article in an OA repository.

It has also become easy to find a suitable OA repository in which to deposit your work. Your first stop should be the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR), which currently lists over 2,200 institutional, disciplinary, and universal repositories. Although an article deposited in an OA repository will be available to anyone with Internet access, repositories differ in feature sets and policies. For example, some repositories, like figshare, automatically assign a CC BY license to all publicly shared papers; others, like Open Depot, allow you to choose a license before making the article public. A good OA repository will tell you how it ensures the long-term digital preservation of your content as well as what metadata it exposes to search engines and web services.

Once you’ve deposited your article in an OA repository, consider making others aware of its existence. Link to it on your website, mention it on social media, or add it to your CV.

In honor of Open Access Week, I am issuing a “Green OA Challenge” to readers of this blog who have published at least one peer-reviewed article. The challenge is to self-archive one of your articles in an OA repository and link to it in the comments below. Please also feel free to share any comments you have about the self-archiving process or about green OA. Happy archiving!

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