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Open access publishing and your author rights

Frequently asked questions


Open access (OA) is an electronic publishing model that prioritizes the greatest possible scholarly and public access to scholarship. It seeks to level the playing field among researchers worldwide by allowing equitable access to research, and prioritizes the ability for all citizens to share the results of publicly funded research.

Peter Suber, in his freely-available online book Open Access, offers the following definition:

"Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions." (Suber, 4)

The term "open access" is now widely used in at least two senses. For some, OA literature is digital, online, and free of charge.  This is referred to as gratis OA, as it removes price barriers but not permission barriers. For others, OA literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of unnecessary copyright and licensing restrictions. This form of open access is called libre OA, as it removes both price barriers and permission barriers.  It allows reuse rights which exceed fair use. Journals that support libre OA often make use of Creative Commons licensing.

Open access provides authors with the means to maximize their visibility and increase the usage and citation impact of their research. When authors retain the rights to share their work they can self-archive it in a digital repository, which makes their work available to everyone who may be interested, not just journal subscribers. This effectively enhances the public value of their research by opening it up to service providers such as Google, making it quicker and easier to access. Authors also boost their online presence and raise their research profile since Google and other web search engines index OA repositories, resulting in their availability to anyone with Web access

A number of studies have shown that openly accessible publications are cited more frequently. A recent study by Piwowar et al. (2018) revealed that, accounting for age and discipline, OA articles receive 18% more citations than average. The increased citation impact found in these studies is a direct result of the authors making their work open access so that more people can read and cite it.

In summary, open access offers the following benefits:

  • OA promotes equitable access to research for scholars and the global public
  • OA increases the dissemination of research works, which in return enhances the impact of research (citation count, reputation, visibility, etc.).
  • OA offers research greater control of their published work, for example, distributing one's work to colleagues and students
  • Self-archiving of preprints allows one's work to be accessible before it is officially published. This strategy allows researchers to claim a particular finding in a timely way and is helpful in disciplines where advances happen at a rapid pace
  • OA reduces the costs for students to access teaching and research materials and for libraries to acquire materials.

Further Reading

Canadian Association of Research Libraries, (2017). Open Access.
SPARC. (2010). Digital repositories offer many practical benefits.
Chan, L. & Swan, A. (2010). Benefits of Open Access for research dissemination.
Lewis, C. (2018). The Open Access citation advantage: does it exist and what does it mean for libraries?
Piwowar et al. (2018). The state of OA: a large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles.
Suber, P. (2012). Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

From the moment an author first creates a work, they become the original copyright holder of that work and retain control over how it is used. As the author of an article, book chapter or other scholarly output, you are automatically the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement. Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of their original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law. [1]  

Publisher agreements routinely ask authors to transfer copyright and associated author rights over to them once an item is to be formally published. Authors wishing or needing to retain certain author rights should carefully review the terms of their agreement with a publisher and expect to negotiate directly with publishers. Authors that have already published and want to know their publisher’s copyright policies can use the SHERPA/RoMEO database to run a search by publisher or journal.

To learn more about your author rights or options for negotiating with publishers, contact the Libraries at opendeposit@yorku.ca to make an appointment or consult the below resources:

CARL Guide to Author Rights (Canadian Association of Research Libraries)

SPARC and the Author Addendum (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)

[1] Adapted from Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum. SPARC. (CC BY 4.0) Retrieved from https://sparcopen.org/our-work/author-rights/brochure-html/

Open access for journal articles is achievable in two ways. The first option, the “green route” is centered around publishing in a subscription-based journal, with a copy of the article being placed in an institutional repository (called self-archiving). This practice usually requires a researcher to keep a copy of their author accepted manuscript (aka postprint) so it can be deposited into a disciplinary or institutional open access repository. The author accepted manuscript is the last version of your accepted manuscript, including all changes made after peer-review before any typesetting or copyediting by the publisher. The second option, the “gold route” involves publishing in a fully open access journal. For journals that use Article Processing Charges (APCs) as a means to fund open access, these APCs are eligible expenses under the Tri-Agency terms for the use of grant funds.

Researchers wishing to self-archive by depositing a copy of an article in YorkSpace can forward a copy of their author-accepted manuscript along with the full citation for their paper (including the DOI of your paper) to opendeposit@yorku.ca or fill out our online YorkSpace mediated deposit form. Authors can also process a deposit themselves by registering with YorkSpace and following deposit instructions.

York University Libraries continues to fund open access publishing and open scholarship efforts at the University and in Canada through initiatives such as:

  • agreements with various publishers to secure discounts for York authors that incur author processing charges for publishing in open access (see full list below);
  • memberships and funding commitments with leading open scholarship infrastructure organizations such as the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Global Sustainability Coalition for Open Science Services (SCOSS); 
  • provision of digital publishing support through York University Digital Journals program;
  • management of YorkSpace, York University’s institutional repository, and associated open access publishing support services;
  • an open access author fund, which, subject to the availability of funds, can help support processing charges for papers accepted for publication in fully open access journals (currently closed for rest of fiscal year 2021-2022);
  • campus partnerships with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, and the Office of Research Services.

At its meeting on June 25 2019, the Senate of York University approved an Open Access Policy, reinforcing York’s commitment to the democratization of knowledge by making its research widely accessible to citizenry and the global community. The policy establishes the expectation that York University researchers will submit their scholarly articles to the open digital repository at York University (Yorkspace, Osgoode Digital Commons) or its equivalent.

Researchers who publish in traditional subscription-based scholarly journals can comply with the Senate Policy on Open Access through the practice of self-archiving. This practice requires a researcher to keep a copy of their author accepted manuscript (aka postprint) so it can be deposited into a disciplinary or institutional open access repository (green open access).

To deposit a copy of your article in YorkSpace, please fill out our online YorkSpace mediated deposit form. The Libraries will contact you with additional information on next steps once your submission has been received. Authors can also process a deposit themselves by registering with YorkSpace and following our deposit instructions.

To seek assistance on locating alternative repositories for depositing your research, please contact the Libraries at opendeposit@yorku.ca. To learn more about the Senate Policy on Open Access, please consult the following FAQ:

York University Senate Policy on Open Access: Frequently Asked Questions


Additional resources