How to Develop Open Access Policies

Table of Contents


The write-up delves into how to develop open access policies, guiding publishers and institutions in creating sustainable open access publishing practices.

Open access refers to the free, online availability of research outputs like journal articles and data. It aims to remove barriers, like subscription fees, limiting access to and sharing information. Open access is crucial because it facilitates the dissemination of knowledge globally. This increases opportunities for learning and collaboration while promoting research transparency and accountability.

Why is Open Access Important?

Open access makes research publications freely available online without restrictions. This removes financial barriers posed by subscription fees charged by many academic journals. It allows anyone with an internet connection to access, read, and build upon current research findings.

More comprehensive access accelerates discovery by enabling collaboration and data reuse across disciplines and borders. It also promotes equity by leveling the playing field for researchers and institutions in developing countries. Additionally, open access helps taxpayers and citizens get returns on their investments in publicly funded research.

The Impact of Open Access Policies on Academic Publishing

Open access policies require researchers to make their publications openly available, often by depositing versions in online repositories. This increases access while retaining copyright to allow licensing for reuse. Such policies expand readership and citation impact for more researchers by removing price and permission barriers.

However, the transition does affect academic publishing revenue models since subscriptions provide less value. Effective open access policies should consider sustainable funding models to cover publishing costs.

Open access policies have become vital for democratizing access to updated research, data, and analytics. This informs teaching practices and policy decisions on critical educational issues. It also enables the free exchange of insights between academic institutions to enrich learning. Students benefit from unrestricted access to the latest findings and scholarly material for their studies and research projects.

Additionally, transparency regarding publicly funded research aids the assessment of return on investment. Taxpayers can access what they fund, while policymakers need up-to-date evidence. Thus, open access policies make research more accessible and strengthen the link between education and discovery.

Understanding Open Access

Open access publishing aims to make research outputs freely available to all potential users online without barriers. Its core principles are removing price barriers like subscription fees and permission barriers that limit access to published materials. This allows for broader dissemination of works and greater impact.

The Benefits of Open Access

Open access offers many advantages:

  • Researchers benefit from increased citations and visibility for their work. Freely available research also aids scientific progress through collaboration.
  • Students access more resources for their learning and research without needing institutional subscriptions.
  • The public can access cutting-edge research findings that their tax dollars funded, promoting transparency and public understanding.

Different Types of Open Access Policies and Models

There are several open access policies and models:

  1. Green open access: Authors self-archive manuscript versions in an open repository. This allows access but does not always convey reuse rights.
  2. Gold open access: Research is immediately published in an open access journal. This model needs funds to sustain journals through fees.
  3. Hybrid open access: Subscription-based journals offer an open access option for a fee. This increases access but has been criticized for “double dipping.”

Each model has tradeoffs regarding permissions, economics, versions, and embargo periods. A comprehensive understanding of this publishing model will allow publishers and stakeholders to plan better how to develop open access policies.

Academic Research on Open Access

Open access publishing has been a subject of extensive research, particularly regarding its impact on the citation rates of scholarly articles. Several studies have provided evidence supporting the benefits of open access, with increased citations being one of the most significant advantages.

For instance, a study published in Ecosphere by Tang et al. found that open access increases citations of papers in ecology, indicating that open access can be particularly beneficial in specific scientific disciplines. Nonetheless, another finding by Lansingh and Carter indicates that open access, thus far, does not affect citation for ophthalmology papers.

Research by Mikki concluded that scholarly publications beyond paywalls, such as those made available through open access, experience an increased citation advantage. This is further supported by the work of McCabe MJ and Snyder CM, who identified the effect of open access on citations in their study.

A systematic review titled “Is the open access citation advantage real?” published in 2021 provides a comprehensive analysis of the citation of open access and subscription-based articles. The review found that out of the studies included, 47.8% confirmed the existence of an open access citation advantage (OACA), while 23.9% found OACA only in subsets of their sample.

These examples underscore the positive impact (while not entirely conclusive based on the research findings) of open access on research visibility and citation rates, demonstrating that OA articles often have a greater reach and are more frequently cited than those behind paywalls, enhancing scholarly work’s dissemination and influence.

What are Open Access Policies?

Open access policies are rules and guidelines established by institutions, funders, publishers, or governmental bodies that mandate or encourage the unrestricted online distribution of research outputs. These policies ensure that scholarly works, such as journal articles, conference papers, and datasets, are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, without financial, legal, or technical barriers.

The primary objectives of open access policies are to:

  • Enhance the visibility and uptake of research findings.
  • Promote the sharing and use of knowledge, fostering innovation and collaboration across different fields and geographies.
  • Support equitable access to research information, especially for those in developing countries or institutions with limited resources.
  • Ensure that publicly funded research is available to the public, promoting transparency and enabling taxpayers to see the results of their investments.

To achieve these goals, open access policies typically require researchers to deposit their published work or versions thereof (e.g., preprints or postprints) in an open repository where the public can access and read. These repositories may be subject-specific, institutional, or part of a larger network.

The policies often stipulate which version of the work should be made open (publisher’s final version, accepted manuscript, etc.), when it should be made open (immediately upon publication or after an embargo period), and under what license it should be distributed to permit reuse and redistribution.

Open access policies vary widely in their requirements and scope. They may be mandatory, strongly encouraged, or provide guidelines for best practices. Furthermore, they might cover all research outputs or focus on specific types such as articles, theses, or data. Developing these policies involves carefully considering the needs and concerns of all stakeholders involved, including researchers, institutions, funders, publishers, and the public.

The Importance of Open Access Policies

Open access policies are pivotal in promoting equity and inclusivity in education. By making research freely available, these policies ensure that anyone can access the latest findings and innovations, regardless of their financial means or institutional affiliations. This levels the playing field and empowers disadvantaged students to advance their learning.

In particular, open access benefits students and academics from the Global South and other marginalized groups. The high cost of journal subscriptions often puts scholarly literature out of reach for those without well-funded institutions. Open access removes this financial barrier so that one’s geographical location or socioeconomic status does not impede one’s ability to be on the cutting edge.

Open access policies tackle inequities in the research ecosystem by making publications accessible to all. This expands international opportunities for students and scholars to participate fully in academic dialogues. Additionally, open data and educational resources empower educators to tailor materials to the unique needs of their students.

By removing paywalls, open access gives research far greater visibility. Studies consistently show open access articles receive more views and citations than paywalled alternatives. This increased discoverability and readership enables research to have a broader real-world impact. What good is groundbreaking research if hardly anyone can access it?

Likewise, open access provides early-career researchers and those from less prestigious institutions the same platform as senior academics from elite universities. This levels the playing field regarding the visibility and influence of one’s work.

At its core, open access advances the democratization of information – the idea that knowledge should be freely available to all rather than concentrated among the privileged few. By dismantling barriers to the latest research, open access gives people the information they need to make informed decisions about their health, education, finances, and beyond.

Likewise, freely sharing the findings and innovations from publicly funded research embodies democratic ideals. Taxpayers deserve access to the outputs they have already paid for through research grants and other funding. Open access policies affirm that knowledge is a public good that should empower society.

How to Develop Open Access Policies

Developing effective open access policies requires careful consideration of several vital steps. The process should begin by bringing together a working group with representatives from all major stakeholder groups, including faculty, administrators, librarians, and students. This cross-functional team can collaborate to align on goals, identify needs and concerns, and craft policy language.

Engaging Stakeholders

A critical early priority is conducting outreach and education to build support for open access across campus. The working group should meet with departments and governance groups to communicate the benefits of open access regarding visibility, citations, and public impact. Gathering input will allow policies to reflect the campus culture and disciplinary norms. Stakeholders are more likely to embrace policies they have helped shape.

Building Consensus

Policy development should focus on areas of broad agreement first before tackling more contentious issues. Rather than seeking a one-size-fits-all mandatory policy, the group can find consensus around more flexible or aspirational language, calling on authors to make their work open access when possible. Rights retention and deposit requirements can be revisited over time as support for open access grows. Funding and integration with institutional repositories should also be addressed.

Addressing Challenges

Common obstacles include publisher embargoes, version control complexities, costs, and concerns over academic freedom. The working group should research sustainable funding models, seek waivers when possible, and phase in requirements gradually. Outreach and education will also help mitigate concerns over academic freedom and disciplinary norms. With good faith negotiations among stakeholders, achievable open access policy solutions can emerge.

Key Components of Open Access Policies

Developing open access policies involves carefully considering several components crucial to the policy’s effectiveness and sustainability. These components serve as the foundation for creating a robust framework that encourages the dissemination of knowledge while respecting the rights of authors and other stakeholders.

Defining Scope and Objectives

  • Scope of research outputs: The policy must clearly define which types of research outputs it covers, such as journal articles, conference papers, book chapters, datasets, and any other scholarly works.
  • Objectives: The policy should articulate its goals, such as increasing the visibility and impact of research, promoting knowledge sharing, or ensuring public access to publicly funded research.
  • Copyright retention: Authors should be encouraged or required to retain copyright over their work to control the terms of its dissemination.
  • Licensing: The policy should specify the licenses under which works will be available. Creative Commons licenses are commonly used in open access policies to facilitate reuse while protecting author rights.
  • Rights retention strategy: A strategy may be included to ensure that authors can legally deposit their work in an open repository despite any agreements with publishers.

Repository Infrastructure

  • Selection of repositories: The policy must identify where the research outputs will be deposited, whether in institutional, subject-specific, or centralized repositories.
  • Interoperability standards: To facilitate discovery and access, repositories should adhere to technical standards that enable interoperability among different systems.
  • Long-term preservation: Policies should address the long-term preservation of digital outputs to ensure continued access and usability.

Compliance and Monitoring

  • Mandates and incentives: The policy should outline whether compliance is mandatory, incentivized, or encouraged and detail any consequences or rewards for compliance or non-compliance.
  • Monitoring and reporting: Mechanisms should be implemented to monitor compliance with the policy and report on its outcomes, such as increased citation rates or readership.

Funding Models

  • Article Processing Charges (APCs): If the policy supports gold open access, it should address how APCs will be funded.
  • Sustainable funding: The policy should consider how to sustainably fund open access publishing without placing undue financial burdens on authors, especially those from underfunded institutions or countries.

Embargoes and Access

  • Embargo periods: The policy should state if there are allowable embargo periods before the work must be made openly accessible and what those periods are.
  • Version of record: Clarify which version of the work should be available (e.g., preprint, postprint, publisher’s version).

Education and Advocacy

  • Awareness raising: Plans for educating stakeholders about the benefits and requirements of open access should be included.
  • Advocacy: The policy should outline efforts to advocate for open access within the broader academic and publishing communities.

Policy Review and Adaptation

  • Review schedule: The policy should include a schedule for regular review and revision to adapt to changes in the publishing landscape and stakeholder needs.
  • Flexibility and adaptability: The policy should allow for flexibility to accommodate disciplinary differences and the evolving nature of scholarly communication.

When carefully crafted and implemented, these key components help create comprehensive open access policies that balance the interests of all parties involved and promote a more open and equitable scholarly communication system.


We have delved into how to develop open access policies, a complex but essential endeavor that has far-reaching implications for the democratization of knowledge. By carefully considering the needs and perspectives of all stakeholders, institutions can craft policies that not only promote the free exchange of information but also respect the rights and efforts of authors.

Open access is more than just removing paywalls; it’s about fostering a culture of sharing and collaboration that can accelerate innovation and global progress. As we move forward, it is crucial to continue refining these policies to address new challenges and leverage emerging opportunities. Regular reviews and updates will ensure that open access policies remain relevant and effective in an ever-evolving scholarly landscape.

By committing to these principles and practices, the academic community can uphold the open access ethos—ensuring that knowledge is a shared resource that empowers researchers, educators, students, and the public. The journey towards comprehensive open access is ongoing, and knowing how to develop open access policies can be key.

While there may be hurdles along the way, the collective benefits of such policies are undeniable. In embracing open access, we commit to a future where research and discovery are accessible to all, thereby enriching education, informing policy, and ultimately contributing to the betterment of society worldwide.

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