Open access publishing and your author rights

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is open access?

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.

Many open access journal providers provide libre OA, but others may only provide gratis OA. For the purpose of the Tri-Council Open Access Policy on Publications, either interpretation of OA will suffice.

Why is open access important to researchers?

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, although there is some controversy in this area . Steve Lawrence’s early study results indicated that the citation count of computer science papers tripled with free online access, and Michael Kuntz’s study on astronomy literature found that open access can double the readership of articles. A summary of all citation impact studies can be found at eprints.ecs.soton.ac.uk/18516. 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.

For more information on the benefits of open access, “Why Open Access to Research and Scholarship?” by John Willinsky is an excellent resource.

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.
Suber, P. (2012). Open Access. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

What are my rights as an author?

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/

How can I make my publications open access?

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. These modalities are explained in more detail here.

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. Authors can also process a deposit themselves by registering with YorkSpace and following deposit instructions.

How do the Libraries invest in open access publishing?

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 2020-2021);
    • campus partnerships with the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation, and the Office of Research Services.

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