Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter



Are You in the 87%?

What can you do with your journal articles once they have been published? When you have signed the journal’s copyright transfer agreement, can you also put a version of the article in an open access repository like eScholarship@BC? You may be surprised that, generalizing across all disciplines, 87% of the time the answer may be yes.

Trends in academic publishing

Last semester Tom Wall, University Librarian, and I visited the Provost’s Advisory Council to discuss open access trends in academic publishing. One topic of discussion was the deposit of faculty articles in eScholarship.

Faculty members on the council were curious about the role of copyright in this process. Having signed many copyright transfer agreements, many were under the impression that they could no longer deposit those works.

The open access “movement” has put pressure on publishers to allow authors to retain greater control over their intellectual property. Some have responded, but stark disciplinary differences exist. Society publishers often derive significant income from membership fees which pay for a subscription to the society journal. Worries about financial viability may lead them to be restrictive with this content.

Other journals have adopted a policy of embargoing the open accessibility of articles for a period of time. This approach attempts to balance the rights of the author (allowing eventual open access to their work) and the publishers (allowing a period of exclusive publication to recoup publishing costs). Some mainstream academic publishers (Springer, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, among others) have adopted their own open access hybrid model – allowing some articles in a traditional journal to be immediately openly accessible, upon payment of a hefty article processing fee. These fees are often paid from grant funds or from open access funds which some universities have established. For authors without grants or access to a university fund, the cost ($3000 is typical) can be prohibitive.

Our investigation of journal policies

During our discussion with the Provost’s Advisory Council, faculty members requested that the Libraries provide each department with a snapshot of the current climate among journals in their disciplines. The subject liaison librarians have each been working on this project. Our method was to create a list of journals generally recognized as important in the discipline and/or represented on the CVs of faculty in the department. To find the journals’ individual policies on author self-archiving in their institution’s repository, we first consulted SHERPA/RoMEO, a resource maintained for this purpose. If policies for the journals were not reported there, or were ambiguous, we checked the journal publisher’s website and, in some cases, emailed the permissions office of the journal.

Each liaison librarian created a spreadsheet of policies for the list of journals in their discipline. We aggregated the results to draw some more general conclusions. Our goal was to determine which, if any, version of an author’s article could be deposited in an institutional repository, such as eScholarship@BC, without asking the publisher’s permission or paying a fee.

Summary of results

As expected, we found wide differences in the journal policies across disciplines. In many of the sciences and social sciences, policies regarding deposit are very liberal – in some disciplines all of the journals listed allowed some version to be deposited. In the humanities several journals had no published policy on the issue. In a few disciplines, usually dominated by a scholarly society publisher, some journals allowed no deposit at all.

In general, preprint versions (original manuscripts before peer review) and postprints (the author’s final accepted manuscript with changes based on peer-review) were the versions most likely to be free of restrictions. Only a few journals allow posting of the final formatted publisher’s version. Almost all require linking or citing the original published source.

A compilation of the charts for each discipline surveyed is attached. Most departments have received a spreadsheet of the journals surveyed in their disciplines, and their policies. If anyone would like to see the spreadsheets of other disciplines, please just email your subject liaison or me.

Depositing your work in eScholarship

Of the 503 journals included in our group, we found that 87% would allow some version of the author’s article to be deposited in eScholarship. Depositing work in eScholarship showcases the work of individual faculty members and the quality of work done at Boston College. It eliminates economic barriers to knowledge for readers everywhere and increases discovery and citation counts. It also delivers a permanent web address for an article that can be added to a CV.

We have some new web pages about eScholarship@BC. Please take a look at our services and policies and let us know how we can help you make your work more accessible.

Jane Morris
Scholarly Communication Librarian