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Frequently Asked Questions
Is the policy legal?
Yes. The policy follows U.S. copyright law and has been vetted by Virginia Tech's Office of Legal Counsel. More than 50 U.S. universities already have a similar policy in place.
What is open access?
Open access refers to scholarship that is freely available online for anyone to read. Formal definitions also say that open access works should be free of most copyright and licensing restrictions, but this policy does not address open licensing (such as Creative Commons licenses). However, authors can choose to assign a Creative Commons license during the deposit process, which clarifies that permission is not needed for uses such as scholarly sharing, image reuse, and class use. For more information, see the library's Open Access guide.
Will I need to publish in an open access journal?
No. The new language in Policy 13000 addresses the deposit of an article version (the accepted manuscript), in order for Virginia Tech authors to more effectively disseminate and preserve their work.
What does the policy language say?
The policy language says that Virginia Tech authors grant a nonexclusive license to the university in order to deposit the accepted manuscript of their scholarly article in the university repository, VTechWorks, within one month of the publication date (a manuscript can be deposited as soon as it is accepted). Maximizing the dissemination of research benefits authors, the university, readers around the world, and scholarship generally. Authors may waive the policy on a per-article basis, or specify a delay in access (an embargo, such as 6 months, up to a maximum of 5 years). The policy enables immediate deposit, so journal embargo periods need not be observed.
How does the policy affect copyright?
Authors retain copyright, in accordance with existing language in the university's Policy 13000. The problem is that we usually have no choice but to transfer copyright to a journal when our article is accepted. Copyright owners can grant exclusive or nonexclusive rights as a whole or in part (copyright is a bundle of rights, including the rights to copy, distribute, make derivatives, etc.; see Title 17 section 106 of U.S. Copyright law). Under the policy, authors grant the university nonexclusive rights to share the article. This means that VTechWorks can help authors disseminate their work regardless of an author's publication agreement, including copyright transfer. The policy also returns rights to authors, so after depositing to VTechWorks, you may post your article elsewhere if you wish, such as a personal webpage or disciplinary repository.
How does this affect the publication agreement that I sign?
- The policy grants non-exclusive rights to the university and remains in effect regardless of any subsequent assignment of rights, including copyright transfer. Many academic publishers already allow authors to deposit their accepted manuscript, but they dictate what version, when, and where research can be shared. A primary purpose of the policy is to simplify, standardize, and expand this practice.
- Please note that a few publishers may require a policy waiver (1, 2), or require authors to verify that the work is not subject to any previous agreements. In these cases, authors may negotiate with the publisher for archiving rights, or waive the policy. See below for more information on the waiver and embargo options.
Is the policy required?
No, it is a benefit that many other universities do not offer. Authors should either deposit the article or waive the license, so the article's status in the policy is clear.
Will there be any negative consequences for me if I make my article available?
We are not aware of any problems for authors, legal or otherwise, who are taking advantage of open access policies at their institutions. In 10+ years of open access policies at other institutions, there have been no challenges from journals or publishers. It is important to emphasize that open access policies follow copyright law. Any takedown notice would be sent to VTechWorks, not to the author(s). VTechWorks would refuse any takedown request for items covered by the policy, and forward the complaint to University Counsel. In the past, publishers have sent takedown notices to ResearchGate and Academia.edu because their users uploaded the publisher's final PDF, rather than the version they were permitted to share (if any). We believe the open availability of our articles will only be beneficial (see below).
What are the benefits of the policy?
- The policy is intended to provide research access to the public, while also benefiting us as authors through wider dissemination of our articles.
- The public includes scholars in the developing world, government policymakers, non-governmental organizations, taxpayers, and Virginia Tech alumni, among others.
- Many studies (but not all) show a citation advantage for open access articles over articles behind a paywall. The most recent analysis found an average 18% advantage (Piwowar et al., 2018). In addition, a metrics company analysis found that in most disciplines, the citation advantage comes from archiving a version of the article, rather than publishing in an open access journal. The open access citation advantage could help address the "highly cited" concern expressed in VT's Beyond Boundaries documents (PDF: 1, 2).
- Public availability of research helps address the interest in broader impact from funders and the university, with some early indications of increased altmetrics for open access articles (that is, links to articles from the media, government agencies, social media, etc.).
- In some cases, depositing a grant-funded article in an institutional repository meets U.S. federal agency sharing requirements (for example, the Department of Energy). Research sponsored by international or European funders in cOAlition S can meet requirements by depositing an accepted manuscript with a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.
- The policy levels the playing field with peer institutions, including SCHEV peers that have open access policies (see below), enabling greater sharing of research than is currently possible at Virginia Tech.
- As a public land-grant university, Virginia Tech can better fulfill its mission as more of our research becomes available. Currently, the majority of our scholarly articles are not available to the public.
- Access is a value inherent in scholarship itself, since knowledge cannot be efficiently built upon without awareness of existing knowledge.
Who is covered by the policy?
The policy covers all faculty, staff, and students ("Virginia Tech authors"). In the original proposed version, the policy covered faculty only.
Have other universities adopted open access policies?
- Yes, more than 50 universities have adopted open access policies (mostly faculty-only), including several of our SCHEV peer institutions (links go to policies): Rutgers, Minnesota, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Stony Brook University, and the University of California system (which includes our SCHEV peers Berkeley and Davis). Other universities with faculty-led open access policies of this type include Indiana University, Florida State, UNC Chapel Hill, Oregon State, Cal Tech, Georgia Tech, Emory, Kansas, Arizona, Duke, MIT, Princeton, and Harvard (where each school has a similar policy, for example Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which pioneered this type of policy in 2008). More than half of European universities have open access policies, according to a recent survey. Policies continue to be passed every year (2018 Johns Hopkins; 2019 Penn State; 2020 Stanford).
- Some universities have policies that cover all authors (including students and staff), as the policy at Virginia Tech does, such as the University of California system, Penn State, and the University of North Texas.
Will the policy harm journals or scholarly societies?
Currently 74% of publishers already permit authors to archive the author's accepted manuscript in an institutional repository. If a publisher desires a delay in archiving, this policy can accommodate that embargo if the author wishes. Finally, if a publisher objects to the license granted to Virginia Tech, the author can waive the policy on a per-article basis at the author's discretion. There is no evidence that article availability results in cancellation of journal subscriptions. For example, scholarly societies in physics have not seen any impact on their publishing programs despite the availability of almost all published papers in an open access repository (arXiv) for more than two decades.
How do I deposit my publication?
- There are three ways to deposit articles, explained in greater detail in How To Deposit:
What if I have publications with VT co-authors?
While any author can deposit the work, please select one author to do so to avoid duplicate records within VTechWorks.
Can I deposit a publication that has both VT and non-VT co-authors?
Yes. As a courtesy, we recommend informing your co-authors that the accepted manuscript is being made openly available. All authors benefit from article availability, so co-authors at institutions without an open access policy may appreciate the ability of Virginia Tech faculty to legally post the article.
Can I waive the policy?
Authors can waive the license on a per-article basis by selecting the waiver option for the article in Elements, the Deposit Form, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the article DOI, or title and journal. Waiving the license means that your rights regarding your article are limited to those in your publication agreement. A waiver does not prohibit you from depositing your article at a later time, if your agreement permits. Authors cannot waive the policy as a whole.
Can I delay access to an article?
Yes. Authors have the option to specify an embargo period (not to exceed five years) when they deposit the article if they wish to accommodate a publisher's embargo, or for any reason. Note that, due to the prior nonexclusive license, there is no obligation to observe a publisher's embargo. The embargo option is already part of the submission process for both Elements and VTechWorks.
How is the publication date defined?
The policy says that authors will deposit their articles within one month of the publication date. The publication date is considered the date of online availability provided on the publisher's site. It's advantageous to post an article as early as possible, since scholars receiving alerts (from journal tables of contents or Google Scholar) may look for it at publication, and if they don't have access, they may search for an alternate version using tools such as Google Scholar or Unpaywall. Articles may be deposited the day they are accepted through one month after publication. However, the nonexclusive license does not expire, so articles may still be deposited if more than a month has passed since the publication date.
What is VTechWorks?
VTechWorks is Virginia Tech's institutional repository that provides global access to Virginia Tech scholarship. It is indexed by all search engines, as well as Google Scholar, Unpaywall, and more. VTechWorks receives over 4,000 downloads per day, on average, from all over the world (after the U.S., countries with the highest usage are India, the Philippines, the U.K., Canada, and China). VTechWorks provides a permanent URL (a handle, such as http://hdl.handle.net/10919/99893) for linking to each work, as well as download statistics, and ensures article preservation. Items in VTechWorks can also be found through a site search on the university's homepage, vt.edu. VTechWorks is maintained by VT Libraries, and staff can be contacted at email@example.com. Learn more about VTechWorks in this VT News article.
What types of materials are included in the policy?
The policy applies to “scholarly articles.” This refers to published research articles in the broadest sense of the term. Authors are best situated to determine what writings fit the category of “scholarly articles” within their discipline.
What version of the article do I deposit?
- Deposit your accepted manuscript, sometimes called the post-print (that is, your final draft after changes from the peer review process and copy editing have been made). A publisher's proof can be submitted if the author wishes, or if it is the only accepted version available. The policy enables immediate deposit, so journal embargo periods need not be observed. The journal's published PDF cannot be deposited, unless:
- The article is published with a Creative Commons license in an open access journal.
- One or more co-authors is a U.S. government employee and therefore the work is in the public domain.
- The journal requests that its published version is the only one that should be archived.
If I published in an open access journal, why should I deposit my article?
If you published in an open access journal that uses a Creative Commons license on the article, you can submit the publisher's PDF. This provides alternative access in case the publisher's site is down, and will help inform assessments of how much of Virginia Tech's research is openly available. VTechWorks is also indexed by site searches on the university's homepage, vt.edu, so your article can be found through searches there. Note that VTechWorks receives articles from some open access publishers, so please check to see if the article is already present in the repository to avoid adding a duplicate.
How should I prepare my accepted manuscript?
- As best practice, we recommend that the accepted manuscript file should include:
- A statement on the title page that says "This is the accepted manuscript of..." followed by the full citation of the published version, including the DOI, if available.
- If your accepted manuscript was anonymized, add author information.
- If double spaced, consider reverting to single spaced for easier reading and fewer pages if printed.
- Add figures, tables, etc.
- If supplementary data or files were included, add a link to these if possible.
- If you assign a Creative Commons license to your accepted manuscript, place it on the title page, for example, "This article is licensed Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International", linking the text to the license. When you deposit the file, ensure that the license you choose matches the one on the title page.
- Check accessibility. In Microsoft Word, for example, check accessibility under the Review tab.
- Convert the file to PDF. Google Scholar mostly indexes PDFs, and PDF is a preservation format. In Microsoft Word, for example, go to File > Save As > File Format: PDF.
Can I deposit the journal's proof?
Yes. If you prefer it to your own accepted manuscript, or it is the only accepted version of the article that you have, you may deposit it.
Can I deposit articles I have previously published?
Not under the policy, which is not retrospective, and only covers scholarly articles accepted on or after March 22, 2021. However, you may still be able to deposit them, depending on the journal's archiving permissions. Search journal titles at Sherpa/Romeo for information on what version you can post, if any. VTechWorks staff are happy to help you navigate journal permissions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if my accepted manuscript has copyrighted images in it?
In some cases yes, and in some cases no. It depends on whether you had to sign an agreement to get access to the image you used. If you didn’t, because the image is in the public domain or your use of it was fair use, then the work can be made publicly accessible with the image included. If you did sign an agreement, review the agreement to see if it allows broad use of the image as long as it is in the context of the article. If the terms of the agreement would not permit public access to the image in the context of the article, you have a few options:
- Contact the other party to the agreement to get permission;
- Get a different copy of the image from a different source with better terms, or depending on your discipline, see if there is a different image that will meet your needs;
- Deposit a version of the article that does not include the images so that readers can still read your argument/analysis; readers unfamiliar with the images who want to fully understand your arguments will need to get the version of record through other channels;
- Opt out of the policy for that article by obtaining a waiver.
[This response adapted from the University of California FAQ which is licensed CC BY.]
How does the policy affect patent disclosure?
University inventors are asked to disclose their potentially-patentable inventions in accordance with Virginia Tech's IP Policy 13000 (PDF) well before any potential publication of the invention (including a potential publication in VTechWorks). To maintain the maximum flexibility for worldwide patent protection, any potential patent applications should be filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before the publication of any article or other work that could disclose the invention to the public.
What if I still have questions?
Send an email to email@example.com, and a member of the working group will respond. Questions received and their answers may be added to this FAQ.