Open Access FAQ


What is the proposed policy?

The policy requires each faculty member to grant the college permission to make his or her scholarly articles openly available to the public and to exercise copyright in those articles.

What would the proposed policy cover?

The policy would apply to all scholarly articles authored or co-authored while the person is a member of the faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of the policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or copyright assignment agreement before the adoption of the policy.

What other institutions have adopted such a policy?

Many other institutions have adopted a similar policy including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Duke. Peer institutions that have adopted open access policies are Amherst College, Bryn Mawr College, Oberlin College, and Wellesley College. A full list of academic and funder open access policies that have been adopted is available at ROARMAP: Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies.

Why adopt an Open Access policy?

An Open Access Policy is a powerful, collective statement about Faculty commitment to promote the access to and use of our scholarship by the public. The primary goal of the policy is make our scholarship more widely available and accessible. The policy expresses our conviction that the wide distribution of scholarly knowledge is a good in itself.

What rights do I, as an author, have under copyright law?

Under current U.S. copyright law, original works that are "fixed in a tangible medium" are covered by copyright at the time of their creation.[1] Creators have five exclusive rights related to their works: reproduction, distribution, adaptation, performance, and display. The right of distribution allows authors to publish their works and also transfer their rights in the process of publication. Creators may also license any or all of their rights under copyright to others in order to exert control over how their works may or may not be used. Licenses can be either exclusive (prohibiting anyone else from exercising the right) or non-exclusive.

What would faculty do to comply with the policy?

The policy operates automatically to give the college a license to make available all scholarly articles. This policy can be communicated to the publisher when signing the copyright license or assignment agreement in the form of a “boiler plate” addendum, and simply notifies the publisher that any agreement is subject to this prior license. The college would provide faculty with a standard addendum. [2]

Each Faculty member would provide the college with an electronic copy of the final version of the scholarly article she or he has authored.

What will the college do with the electronic copy of the scholarly article?

The college will place the electronic copy of the scholarly article in an institutional repository. The article will become accessible to the public unless a waiver is sought by the author. If an embargo period is required by the journal publisher, the article will become accessible to the public when the embargo period has expired.

What if the journal publisher refuses to accept the addendum or wants to negotiate it?

If a publisher refuses to publish a work due to the terms of the policy, the Faculty member has several options: he or she can choose to publish elsewhere, ask the college to negotiate with the publisher, embargo (delay public access to) the article for as long as the publisher requests, or simply seek a waiver as provided by the policy.

Will my request for a waiver be granted automatically?

Yes. Faculty who request to opt out of the policy for a given article will automatically receive a waiver.

What if the journal publisher requires an embargo period before an article is made publicly available in a college repository?

Faculty will inform the college of the terms of the embargo period for the given article. The article will not be publicly accessible until the embargo period has expired.

Does the Policy pertain only to peer-reviewed articles?

The scope of the policy is “scholarly articles.” What constitutes a scholarly article is purposefully vague. Clearly falling within the scope of the term are (to use terminology from the Budapest Open Access Initiative) articles that describe the fruits of scholars’ research and that they give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Such articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings, but need not be limited to these channels of dissemination.

Clearly falling outside of the scope of this resolution are a wide variety of other scholarly writings such as books and commissioned articles as well as popular writings, fiction and poetry, and pedagogical materials (lecture notes, lecture videos, case studies).

While the policy is for “scholarly articles, faculty are encouraged to report and submit all of their publications and other forms of scholarship (e.g., essays in collections, reviews, articles in non-peer-reviewed journals, etc.).

We are not concerned that the term "scholarly articles" is not (and cannot be) precisely defined; an exact delineation of every case is neither possible nor necessary. If concerns arise that a particular article inappropriately falls within the purview of the policy, a waiver can always be obtained.

Which version of their article should Faculty submit to the repository?

The policy requires that the author submit the “final version”, which safely means the manuscript copy post-peer review but before a publisher typesets and finalizes it. Some publishers allow the deposit of the publisher’s final typeset version, and others do not.

You may deposit any version of your article that you have the right to include in the repository. You may have the right to include some but not all versions. It is worth distinguishing various versions of an article:

Author's Draft: the version of the paper initially submitted to a journal publisher for consideration, or any earlier draft. (The SHERPA/RoMEO site refers to this as a "pre-print.")

Author's Final Version: the version of the paper accepted by the journal for publication, including all modifications from the publishing peer review process. (The SHERPA/RoMEO site refers to this as a "post-print.")

Published Version: the version of the paper distributed by the publisher to readers of the journal, incorporating any copy editing done by the publisher, showing the final page layout and formatting of the published version, and possibly including the publisher's logo.

Some journal publishers allow posting in an institutional repository of only one of these versions; others allow posting of more than one, or all, of these versions. Some publishers do not allow posting of any version. A summary of journal publishers' default policies is available on the SHERPA/RoMEO website. The Open Access Policy applies specifically to the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscript of the article. The college will make the final Published Version of the article openly accessible when possible, when that is permitted by the publisher’s policy.

What effect will this policy have on faculty who wish to publish in top rated journals?

None. The policy is completely agnostic with respect to where a Faculty member chooses to publish: it only requires that Faculty grant the college a license to the rights of the copyright, except when the author has asked for a waiver, and thereby allow the college to make the work available in a repository.

What should I do if my article has co-authors?

If you are one of multiple authors of your article, you would inform your co-authors about the nonexclusive license in the article that has been granted to Smith College under the proposed policy. If they object to the license and cannot be convinced it is beneficial, you should opt out of the license and seek a waiver.

Will this policy harm journals, scholarly societies, small friendly publishers, or peer review?

There is no empirical evidence that even when all articles are freely available, journals are canceled. The major societies in physics have not seen any impact on their publishing programs despite the fact that for more than 10 years, an open access repository (arXiv) has been making available nearly all of the High Energy Physics literature written during that period. If there is downward pressure on journal prices over time, publishers with the most inflated prices – which tend to be the commercial publishers – will feel the effects sooner. Journals will still be needed for their value-added services, such as peer review logistics, copy editing, typesetting, and maintaining web sites.

Will an Open Access Policy change the scholarship expectations for reappointment, tenure, and promotion?


What would an article submission form include?

The form would include:

Faculty name
Scholarly article citation (Journal Title, volume, issue, article title, publication date)
Any embargo periods to be observed

What would a waiver request include?

Faculty name
Scholarly article citation (Journal Title, volume, issue, article title, publication date)

[1] For a definition of “fixed in a tangible medium” see the definition provided at the Cornell's Legal Information Institute here.

[2] SPARC, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, explains the use of the addendum here and provides a model addendum here.