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Penn Libraries News

Penn Libraries Marks Open Access Week with New Guide for Scholars

Icon picture of DINA Schwerpunkte Parldigi.

In recognition of International Open Access Week, held worldwide this year from October 19 to 25, the Penn Libraries has released a new guide for scholars who may want to learn more about open-access options to improve the discoverability and visibility of their work. 

Open access publishing makes scholarly information more widely available online at no cost to the reader, reducing barriers to access by students, scholars, and to the general public.

The Penn Libraries has long been a key advocate for open access at the University of Pennsylvania. As part of the University’s Statement of Principles on Open Access, which was endorsed by the Faculty Senate in May 2011, the Libraries committed to “develop and monitor an implementation plan and web-based services to make faculty participation in open access and dissemination as convenient as possible.”

The Libraries continues to facilitate open access publishing across the disciplines by consulting directly with individual scholars, participating in consortia that further open access, and supporting initiatives that reduce or eliminate fees for authors to provide open access to their work. The Libraries also manages the University’s institutional repository, the ScholarlyCommons. Launched in 2005, ScholarlyCommons is a freely-accessible archive for the scholarly output of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The Libraries’ new guide offers insights on how to provide the highest level of access and visibility for your work as you progress through the academic publishing journey. It looks at retaining your rights under copyright as you publish, methods of increasing the discoverability of your work, and the power of the CreativeCommons licensing system. Following is an excerpt from the guide, which is available now on the Libraries website and as a downloadable PDF.

Publication with prestigious journals in your field is paramount for academic success and career advancement. If that prestigious journal were an open access journal, you would more likely retain some or all of your exclusive rights, under U.S. copyright law. These exclusive rights include the right of distribution (to share), reproduction (to make copies), and to create derivative works (new scholarship based on your prior scholarship). Although these rights are yours automatically once you’ve created a tangible work, you can also choose to give these rights away. Because publishing is so important to career advancement, we often sign these rights away without a backward glance or second thought. The time has come to develop some strategies to take back some of this unequal bargaining power, and to think critically about how, and when, you grant others one or more of these valuable rights.

Read Closely and Educate Yourself

Since we were children, we have all been advised to read closely and make sure we understand documents before we sign anything. Now that we are grown, the saying is especially true, but we have become complacent through custom. It seems that every day we agree to terms, conditions and privacy policies that we cannot possibly read—we do not have the time, we do not understand the language, and we assume that we will not be harmed if we agree to the terms. We need to use the site or the tool, so do we really have a choice? Similarly, we feel pressure to move forward quickly to publication when an article is accepted by a prestigious journal. Academic culture stresses the need to publish, so we accept the terms, and assume we do not have the power to push back.

These concerns are not insignificant. However, it is well worth the time to educate yourself and develop a publication strategy for your work that contemplates your copyrights. Read your contract closely before you sign to make sure you understand what is being asked of you. Be prepared to ask some questions of the publisher. Do a little research to find out about the journal’s reputation. How do they treat the authors that work with them? What is the norm in your field for copyright retention? Talk with your colleagues to learn from their experiences. Having a conversation with the subject librarian in your discipline is another good starting point. Even if you may not have much room to negotiate to keep your rights now, experience may help you leverage more of your rights down the road, allowing you to share and build on your research as you choose. Building a good foundation grounded in knowledge will mean you are prepared when you receive the acceptance letter from your dream journal.

For support as you are preparing to publish and to learn more about licensing, open access, and subscription publishing venues, connect with a subject librarian in your discipline.

Open Access icon by Jon Opprecht.