In academia a wide-ranging discussion about open access is weakening academic journals' monopoly on profiting from publishing research findings. Different interest groups view this differently, of course. Meanwhile, as the publishing landscape changes, are academic authors, who have long abandoned claims to copyright on many of their scholarly articles (in the "public or perish" world of university faculty-making), less docile about publishing rights, with tenured faculty positions scarcer and scarcer? This round-up of relevant pieces starts with possible breaks in the pattern:
• Athena Unbound: Why and How Scholarly Knowledge Should Be Free for All by Peter Baldwin (MIT Press) "Baldwin addresses the arguments in terms of disseminating scientific research, the history of intellectual property and copyright, and the development of the university and research establishment. As he notes, the hard sciences have already created a funding model that increasingly provides open access, but at the cost of crowding out the humanities. Baldwin proposes a new system that would shift costs from consumers to producers and free scholarly knowledge from the paywalls and institutional barriers that keep it from much of the world."
• Understanding the government requirement for open access studies (Tara Haelle, Covering Health, AHCJ, 9-26-22) Journalists who covered medical research during the pandemic know how helpful it was that nearly all COVID-related studies were freely available upon publication. But those who have covered medical research for years also know how unusual that is.
Using medical research in journalism has long involved finding ways past paywalls for journal articles, whether it was accessed through press registration, reaching out to authors, contacting journal publishers, befriending folks with institutional logins, or tapping unsanctioned repositories like Sci-Hub.
But headlines at the end of August brought welcome news: publicly funded research — studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and other taxpayer-supported agencies — would become freely available to the public, regardless of what journal they were published in. President Biden issued a memorandum on Aug. 25 aimed at “Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research,” as the memo’s subject read, though “immediate” is a bit misleading since federal agencies have until the end of 2025 to comply.
"Open access reflects the desire of researchers and their sponsors to make their work accessible to everyone in the field, which is a serious issue for scholars at universities with limited library budgets, as well as independent scholars others working in developing countries. The paywall for these papers typically is $30 per article and up, so it can be a serious barrier for nonfiction writers without financial support. Please don't look down your noses at open access per se; it's an effort to make information more accessible. Many open access journals offer some provision for open access publication of work by researchers who lack support, although it may be delayed or require special review
• Directory of Open Access Journals http://www.doaj.org/
Two sites for accessing Open Access research articles
---Open Access Button (OA Works) Free, legal research articles delivered instantly or automatically requested from authors. The Open Access Button is a browser bookmarklet which registers when people hit a paywall to an academic article and cannot access it. It is supported by Medsin UK and the Right to Research Coalition. A prototype was built at a BMJ Hack Weekend. All code is openly available online at GitHub.
---Unpaywall A browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that points you to legal, author-posted manuscripts that are hosted on university and government web servers - usually versions that have been posted with the full and explicit authorization of the publishers themselves.
• A Survey of U.S. Science Journalists’ Knowledge and Opinions of Open Access Research (Teresa Schultz International Journal of Communication, 2023) A majority of respondents are willing to use Gold OA and Hybrid OA scholarly articles as sources, although they expressed more hesitancy in using Green OA articles, especially when they are preprints. Respondents showed awareness of the term “predatory publishers,” and a majority expressed concern about them. Some scholars argue that OA publishing, particularly Gold OA journals that charge a fee to publish, leads to predatory publishing, which poses a threat to the gatekeeping practice of peer review. Preprints are scientific studies that have yet to be peer reviewed and are made OA by sharing them on open repositories such as medRxiv and bioRxiv.
• New PLOS pricing test could signal end of scientists paying to publish free papers (Jeffrey Brainard, Science, 10-15-2020) "PLOS, the nonprofit publisher that in 2003 pioneered the open-access business model of charging authors to publish scientific articles so they are immediately free to all, this week rolled out an alternative model that could herald the end of the author-pays era. One of the new options shifts the cost of publishing open-access (OA) articles in its two most selective journals to institutions, charging them a fixed annual fee; any researcher at that institution could then publish in the PLOS journals at no additional charge."
• Want to know if an article is freely available? To check for open access, see
---PLOS ONE (covers primary research from any discipline within science and medicine)
---Paperity (the first multidisciplinary aggregator of Open Access journals and papers)
Legitimate open-access publishers should have a peer review process like other scholarly journals, says writer Jeff Hecht, in an Authors Guild discussion. "As a freelance science journalist, I have found open access is my friend in researching for my writing."~Jeff Hecht
• Copyseek Conference for HE Copyright Practitioners 21st August 2014, University of Leeds (Copyright for Education blog, 8-22-14) Copyright for Education (an excellent blog about aspects of copyright law that affect education, primarily in the UK) reports on a Copyseek Conference for HE Copyright Practitioners, University of Leeds 8-21-14. Scroll down to paragraph starting "After lunch Laurence Bebbington (University of Aberdeen) spoke about the tension between copyright law, open access..." "Laurence was sceptical about open access, saying that it didn't sit well with copyright law as under copyright the author of a work gets to choose what they do with their work and should not be forced to do something with it by someone else."..."Gold open access is also problematic; the requirement to add a CC-BY licence to a work means that there is a loss of control of rights by the author and leaves it open to exploitation by a commercial entity. He cited the case of 'Epigenetics, Environment and Genes', a CC-BY journal article that was made into a book by Apple Academic Press and now sells for over $100 without the knowledge of the author. He left us with the suggestion that there may be ethical issues with open access that perhaps we have overlooked." A blog worth following.
• A New Kind of ‘Big Deal’ for Elsevier (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed, 11-22-19) Carnegie Mellon University has signed an open-access deal with Elsevier -- the first of its kind for the publisher in the U.S. Elsevier struck a similar deal with a consortium of Norwegian research institutions earlier this year.
• Elsevier Mutiny: Cracks Are Widening in the Fortress of Academic Publishing (Mathew Ingram, Forbes, 11-2-15) "All six editors and the entire editorial board of the well-respected linguistics journal Lingua have resigned to protest the company’s failure to embrace open access. And the reason says a lot about the ongoing disruption taking place in the formerly sleepy world of academic publishing." See also Language of Protest (Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 11-2-15) They "resigned to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online." They reported their frustration at "libraries reporting that they could not afford to subscribe to the journal and in some cases couldn't even figure out what it would cost to subscribe.".. Professor Johan Rooryck "said Lingua and most journals publish work by professors whose salaries are paid directly or indirectly with public funds. So why, he asked, should access to such research be blocked?"
Later articles will be posted under Comments.
Some scientists go so far as not to publish in journals which do not offer open access. This includes leading journals such as the Springer-Nature family, which describe their policies here:
• Open access policies for journals (SpringerNature, 2022) Springer Nature’s open access (OA) policies for journal articles published via the immediate (gold) OA and subscription routes. Funding & support services "Springer Nature offers a free open access support service to make it easier for our authors to discover and apply for funding to cover article processing charges (APCs) and/or book processing charges (BPCs)."
• The former editors of Lingua are launching a replacement journal, Glossa, which will be Open Access. See their message to Elsevier authors: Lingua Disinformation (Kai von Fintel, Language Log, 11-27-15) I "reiterate my call to the community not to work with Elsevier in propping up Zombie Lingua. Instead, get ready to support Glossa once it’s fully running in January."
• What happens when you don't have open access, and researchers rail against the outrageous fees required to access articles?
Sci-Hub. Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge (Fiona MacDonald, Science Alert, 2-12-16). Welcome to Sci-Hub, the Pirate Bay of science. "A researcher in Russia [ Alexandra Elbakyan} has made more than 48 million journal articles - almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published - freely available online. And she's now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world's biggest publishers." Interesting dilemma and discussion.
See also this important piece in the Times: Should All Research Papers Be Free? (Kate Murphy, SundayReview, NY Times, 3-12-16), follow-up analysis to the suit against Alexandra Elbakyan but also about the scholarly journals' paywalls she denounced, in which the "largest companies, like Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Springer and Wiley, typically have profit margins of over 30 percent, which they say is justified because they are curators of research, selecting only the most worthy papers for publication. Moreover, they orchestrate the vetting, editing and archiving of articles."
"In response to the suit filed against her, Ms. Elbakyan wrote a letter to the judge pointing out that Elsevier, like other journal publishers, pays nothing to acquire researchers’ studies. Moreover, publishers don’t pay for the volunteer peer reviewers or editors. But they charge those same researchers, reviewers and editors, not to mention the public, whose tax dollars most likely funded the study in the first place, to read the resulting articles."
“That is very different from the music or movie industry, where creators receive money from each copy sold,” Ms. Elbakyan wrote. “I would like to also mention that we never received any complaints from authors or researchers.”
Do read the whole article. And, as one journalist points out, accessing a site that has hacked journals may not be the cyber-safest thing to do.
• Open Access Movement: Part 1, Differing Definitions (Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, 1-23-17) "Not only is there wide disagreement as to what “freely available” really means, but not everyone in the OA movement even agrees that all scholarship must be freely available, or how quickly it should be made freely available, or what mechanisms are appropriate for making it that way."[He writes about varying definitions by different organizations.] "...it’s important to note that there’s a big difference between identifying different varieties of OA (such as “libre” and “gratis”) and proposing mutually incompatible definitions of OA."
• The NIH Public Access Policy: A triumph of green open access? (Richard Poynder, Open and Shut? blog, 1-20-17) The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) defined open access and then outlined two strategies for achieving open access: (I) Self-archiving; (II) a new generation of open-access journals. These two strategies later became known, respectively, as green OA and gold OA. For OA purists, a research paper can only be described as open access if it has a CC BY licence attached. "Since publishing in a subscription journal requires assigning copyright (or exclusive publishing rights) to a publisher, and few (if any) subscription publishers will allow papers that are earning them subscription revenues to be made available with a CC BY licence attached, we can see the contradiction built into the open access movement."
• Framing the Open Access Debate (Phil Davis, The Scholarly Kitchen, 3-2-2009). See his fuller analysis of arguments for and against open access: How the Media Frames “Open Access” (Philip M. Davis, The Journal of Electronic Publishing, Feb. 2009)
• The pros and cons of Open Access (Nature). "Supporters of Open Access to scientific literature often portray it as the definitive and inevitable model for scientific publishing, but it is far from being the last word on new modes of access. In reality, stakeholders in scientific publishing are in the midst of adjusting to the revolutionary new possibilities offered by the Web and the online journal article for scholarly communication. "
"The ease by which content can be accessed has created the view that it should be free – despite that fact that everyone knows that creating and distributing content can be an expensive process. We can see the physical results of that process in a book, and understand where the cost (or at least some if it) lies – this does not happen in the same way online. However, scientific publishing is a demonstrably valuable service and one which does not come cheap, particularly in this era of electronic development. Any emerging models will have to be grounded firmly in economic reality to have any chance of success."
• Open Access, articles about (Scholarly Kitchen). For example:
---The Dissertation Mess: Balancing Rights and Responsibilities. Question at heart of brouhaha: To what degree is it appropriate for graduate schools to require students to give up control over the dissemination of their theses and dissertations?
---CHORUS Gets a Boost from Federal Agencies – But Will New Approaches Make It Harder to Implement? CHORUS and the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced an agreement to use CHORUS for facilitating the discovery of NSF funded works. As more funders look to adopt CHORUS for providing public access to works derived from federal funds, a review of the publisher requirements for participating in CHORUS seems timely.
---Richard Fisher on The Monograph: Keep On Keepin’ On*, Part One (11-10-15) and Part 2 (11-16-15)
---Open Access at a Crossroads (10-28-15) There’s no denying the growth and increased acceptance of the concepts of open access in scholarly publishing. But the repercussions of the business models and methodologies chosen for OA are just beginning to be recognized.
• The myth of 'unsustainable' Open Access journals (Jan Velterop, Nature)
• Open access: six myths to put to rest (Peter Suber, Higher Education Network blog, The Guardian, 10--21-13)
• The open access hoax and other failures of peer review (Mark Liberman, Language Log, 10-5-13) "As a result of the blossoming of the Open Access movement, there has been a similar proliferation of journals on a continuum from those motivated by the best interests of humanity to out-and-out frauds. It appears a number of large and well-funded operations have started to mine this vein of ore, often with publications that are well out towards the "take the money and run" end of that spectrum. "John Bohannon demonstrated this by building an engine to create a large number of nonsense versions of a pretend scientific paper.
• Who's Afraid of Peer Review? (John Bohannon, Science, 10-4-13) 'From humble and idealistic beginnings a decade ago, open-access scientific journals have mushroomed into a global industry, driven by author publication fees rather than traditional subscriptions. The identity and location of the journals' editors, as well as the financial workings of their publishers, are often purposefully obscured. But Science's investigation casts a powerful light. Internet Protocol (IP) address traces within the raw headers of e-mails sent by journal editors betray their locations. Invoices for publication fees reveal a network of bank accounts based mostly in the developing world. And the acceptances and rejections of the paper provide the first global snapshot of peer review across the open-access scientific enterprise. 'The Who's Who of credible open-access journals is the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). On 2 October 2012, when I launched my sting, the DOAJ contained 8250 journals and abundant metadata for each one, such as the name and URL of the publisher, the year it was founded, and the topics it covers. Jeffrey Beall, a library scientist at the University of Colorado, Denver, curates another list, a single page on the Internet that names and shames what he calls "predatory" publishers ("a catchall for what Beall views as unprofessional practices, from undisclosed charges and poorly defined editorial hierarchy to poor English—criteria that critics say stack the deck against non-U.S. publishers.") Beall "got into academic crime-fighting: when the problem "just became too bad to ignore." In a sting operation in 2013, Science created "a credible but mundane scientific paper, one with such grave errors that a competent peer reviewer should easily identify it as flawed and unpublishable. Submitting identical papers to hundreds of journals would be asking for trouble. But the papers had to be similar enough that the outcomes between journals could be comparable." For DOAJ publishers that completed the review process, 45% accepted the bogus paper. Journals published by Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, and Sage all accepted the bogus paper. 'Some say that the open-access model itself is not to blame for the poor quality control revealed by Science's investigation. If I had targeted traditional, subscription-based journals, Roos told me, "I strongly suspect you would get the same result."* But open access has multiplied that underclass of journals, and the number of papers they publish. "Everyone agrees that open-access is a good thing," Roos says. "The question is how to achieve it."
• Open access publishing hoax: what Science magazine got wrong (Curt Rice, The Guardian, 10-4-13) The sting operation on publishers doesn't point to the real crisis, says Curt Rice – the meltdown of the peer review system.
• Open Access Week (an annual international event promoting open access to peer-reviewed work as a new norm in research and scholarship)
• The Research Works Act, open access and publisher boycotts ( Anna Sharman, Cofactor, 1-31-2012)
• The Cost of Knowledge Researchers taking a stand against Elsevier, the greediest of the academic journals. Mathematician Tyler Neylon set up this page where researchers could publicly declare that they 'will not support any Elsevier journal unless they radically change how they operate.'
• Copyright in Academia: How Does It Work (informative slideshare presentation by Geoffrey Pinski and Howard Tolley, University of Cincinnati).
• Attack on Open Access (Eli Edwards, Fairly Used blog, Stanford, 1-6-12)
• Open Access to Scholarship, Part I: A Conversation with Michelle Pearse (Mary Minow, Fairly Used blog, Stanford University, 12-30-10) Nearly two years ago, the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences unanimously voted to grant the university a non-exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide license to distribute faculty’s scholarly articles, with an opt-out mechanism for instance in the case of incompatible rights assignment to a publisher. "Pearse: We were only the second school after the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) to adopt the open access policy, so it has been interesting to watch the Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) evolve over time. We now have 6 schools at Harvard with OA policies. The growth in the number of schools has provided a fabulous opportunity to meet with colleagues working on similar issues, to share thoughts and processes for workflow, experiences with implementing the policies, etc. … especially where scholarship has become so interdisciplinary now."
• Open Access Scholarship, Part II: Eli Edwards' Interview with Richard A. Danner (1-5-11) Edwards: Nearly two years ago, a group of academic law library directors promulgated the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship. It called for (1) open access publication of law school-published journals, and (2) an end to print publication of law journals, coupled with a commitment to keeping the electronic versions available in ‘stable, open, digital formats.”
• Copyright in Academia: How Does It Work? Faculty Ownership, Work for Hire, and Fair Use (handout for a panel in Cincinnati in Oct. 2008 hosted by American Association of University Professors)
• Open Access is not about copyright abolition or author reprint royalties (Open Access Archivangelism).
• Copyright Information Center (Cornell University)
~What Authors Can Do
~, gear especially to academic authors, who routinely give up their copyright without a peep
~Sample Copyright Agreement
~Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine (Science Commons). Helps you generate a PDF form you can attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights.
~Resources from Copyright Information Center
• Academic Exception (Glossary, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard). "Academic exception is the exception for teachers and academics to the general rule that employers hold copyright in the creative works produced by their employees in the course of their employment. Unlike the a work-for-hire situation, academics typically retain the copyrights in the scholarly work they produce, and may retain, sell or assign those copyrights, or dedicate them to the public domain, at their discretion." And here is that glossary's entry for Work for Hire.
• Princeton goes open access to stop staff handing all copyright to journals -- unless waiver granted (Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation 9-28-11)
• Open access and academic journals: the publishers respond (Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation 8-11-11)
• Publishers Support Sustainable Open Access (Association of American Publishers, AAP, 2-6-12). See also, on AAP site,
• FAQ--Questions About Journal Access
• U.S. Publishers Endorse International Joint Statement on Open Access Debate (AAP Communications Staff, 6-8-09)
• Enhanding the Debate on Open Access
• Journal Authors: Intellectual property landlords - or migrant workers? (Dan Carlinsky, ASJA). Alas, ASJA doesn't have this posted now; Dan, if you see this, I'll be glad to post it here, if you like. The title conveys the message, so I'll leave that here.
• Copyright Issues in Open Access Research Journals (Esther Hoorn and Maurits van der Graaf, D-Lib Magazine 2-06). The Open Access environment has created a number of entirely new copyright models.
• Copyright and research: an academic publisher's perspective (K Taylor, (2007) 4:2 SCRIPTed 233)
• Copyright Ownership & the Impact on Academic Libraries (Laura N. Gasaway, 2003)
• Competing Views of Intellectual “Property” (Phil Davis, The Scholarly Kitchen, 4-13, 09) Understanding the NIH public Access debate from the views of labor theory (Does it reward those for their labor), utility theory (Does it maximize public wealth), personality theory (Does it allow individuals to express themselves?), and social planning theory (Does it lead to a richer society?). " The main battle appears to pit Labor theory against Utility theory." (Draws on William Fisher's Theories of Intellectual Property, 2001).
• Information as Property (Phil Davis, The Scholarly Kitchen, 4-9-2009) A discussion of what is problematic about the concept of information as property, drawing on The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind by James Boyle--downloadable free from Duke's Scholarly Depository.
• Libraries, Users & the Problems of Authorship in the Digital Age (Laura N. Gasaway)
• Balancing Copyright Concerns: The TEACH Act of 2001 (PDF, Laura N. Gasaway, Educause Review, policy@edu, Nov./Dec. 2001)
• Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). Also available as a poster. See more SPARC Resources for Authors
• A new twist -- securing authors' rights when negotiating content licenses (Mary Minow and Eli Edwards interview Julia Blixrud, ARL and Ivy Anderson, University of California, Fairly Used blog, Stanford, 2-1-11)
• Open Access to Scholarship, Part I: A Conversation with Michelle Pearse and Part II: An Interview with Richard A. Danner
On a slightly different tangent:
• An end to bad heir days: The posthumous power of the literary estate (Gordon Bowker, The Independent UK 1-6-12). "On the last day of 2011, the 70th anniversary year of his death, James Joyce's work finally passed out of copyright. It was the dawn of a new age for Joyce scholars, publishers and biographers who are now free to quote or publish him without the permission of the ferociously prohibitive Joyce estate."
• How to access paywalled scientific journal articles (Open access and open science--scroll down for this section). See also Unpaywall finds free versions of paywalled papers (Dalmeet Singh Chawla, Nature, 4-4-17) New tool joins a growing collection of software for accessing fee-for-view scientific literature. “Trust but verify.”
• Rights and Royalties Management and Licensing and problems with authors' and artists estates.