FAQ: Open Access Policy

with thanks to MIT, on whose extensive FAQ this is based (used with permission)

PLEASE NOTE: on 11 February 2015 the University Council ratified the new, opt-out open access policy. We are currently in the implementation phase for this policy. This FAQ will give you an understanding of where we are in the process. Please direct any feedback and questions to open-help@bu.edu.


The policy as ratified by the University Council on 11 February 2015 may be found here.

Not at all. Some 23 AAU institutions and around 80 institutions worldwide already have similar policies in place. The oldest opt-out policies were adopted in 2008-09 by Harvard and MIT.

There are two parts to this. Here’s the first: beginning with the date of the policy’s adoption (11 February 2015) all scholarly articles produced by the BU faculty are to be deposited into OpenBU and, by default, made publicly accessible. Authors may opt out of open access for a specific article by filling out a web-based form; see below.

Secondly, the policy grants to BU certain non-exclusive rights with respect to scholarly articles produced after its adoption. Authors can request a waiver of this rights transfer through the same web-based form, on a per-article basis. The waiver is granted automatically; authors receive an auto-generated email confirming this upon submission of the form.

N.B.: Faculty from CAS and ENG should deposit articles and opt out of open access for a specific article through the My CV system.

The goal is expressed in the first line of the policy: “The Faculty of Boston University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible.”

The benefits of an opt-out policy to BU are many:

  • Authors have more agency, not less, with this policy in place.
  • Increased visibility for BU’s research, taking better advantage of existing publisher open access policies. This aligns closely both with the One BU philosophy and with the aims of the Campaign for Boston University.
  • More clearly defined and robust institutional support for helping faculty deposit papers and for negotiating with publishers. Infrastructure to better support the scale at which BU operates.
  • Reduced ambiguity for authors regarding what to submit to our institutional repository OpenBU.
  • Closer alignment with our AAU peers (see below for a list of AAU institutions that have adopted similar policies).
  • More complete capture of faculty publications should allow us to integrate the repository with the faculty annual reporting system, making it easier to fill out annual reports.

Our peers have found that, overwhelmingly, they do not. In fact, an opt-out open access policy clarifies the University’s position, provides an easy mechanism for opting out, and reduces the chances that authors will inadvertently violate their publishing contracts by posting publishers’ versions of their articles elsewhere on the web.


This policy applies to scholarly articles authored by BU faculty. We are basing the definition of scholarly articles on that provided by the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which defines them as writings created “without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge.” Scholarly articles may or may not be peer-reviewed; in most cases they are.

The policy does not apply to books, book chapters, creative works, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, teaching and learning materials, or popular or commissioned articles.

The version of the paper that satisfies this policy is the final author’s draft, after peer review but before the publisher does copy editing and layout.

This policy applies to articles completed after the date of its adoption—11 February 2015. It does not apply to any articles that were completed before the policy was adopted, or to any articles for which you entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy’s adoption date. The policy also does not apply to any articles you write after leaving BU.

Yes, it does. Each author holds copyright in the article and, individually, has the authority to grant BU a non-exclusive license.



If My CV has been rolled out to your academic unit, you will have received an email notification from the Provost’s Office and your local administrators. In that case, please see the emailed communication for instructions.

If you are not yet using My CV, please keep reading.

The policy automatically gives BU a non-exclusive license to any scholarly articles faculty members complete after its adoption. In spring of 2015, BU sent out letters to hundreds of publishers to inform them of this new policy.

To be thorough, BU recommends that you communicate this policy to your publisher and add to any copyright license or assignment for scholarly articles an addendum stating that the agreement is subject to this prior license. That way, you will avoid agreeing to give the publisher rights that are inconsistent with the prior license to BU that permits open-access distribution of final author drafts. BU Libraries in consultation with the Office of the General Counsel have prepared a BU-specific Author Addendum, which is based on similar documents used by our peer institutions that are familiar to many publishers. Please note that, whether or not you use the addendum, the license to BU remains in force. If there is a conflict between the policy and a publication contract you sign after its adoption (11 February 2015), the policy will generally prevail.

You have four options. You may:

  • attempt to persuade the publisher to publish your article, perhaps asking if they would accept an embargo on making the OpenBU final draft copy open access;
  • ask BU Libraries or the BU Office of General Counsel (617.353.2326, buogc@bu.edu) for help in addressing the publisher’s concerns; [Please note: your scholarly articles are owned by you individually and not BU, and the University cannot represent you legally. But we are ready to protect the University’s interest in open access, and will be happy to talk with you to illuminate the issues.]
  • seek another publisher for your article; or
  • opt out by filling out a short web-based form, or, if My CV has been rolled out to your academic unit, request a waiver of the license transfer for your article in My CV (see the Opting Out section below).

As of Summer 2016, we are working with IS&T and the CRC Provost’s Office to implement My CV, a system that will track faculty publications, identify publications that fall under the open access policy, and provide an easy way for faculty to deposit articles accepted for publication into our institutional repository, OpenBU. More information about My CV can be found on the project website.

We are working to develop processes that will minimize effort from BU faculty authors. We’ve set up a short web-based form for submitting articles; it takes 2-3 minutes to complete. We are also working with IS&T and the CRC Provost’s Office to implement My CV, a system that will track faculty publications, identify publications that fall under the open access policy, and provide an easy way for faculty to deposit articles accepted for publication into our institutional repository, OpenBU. More information about My CV can be found on the project website.

We are still honing this process. If you are using My CV (see “What do I have to do to comply with the policy?” above), you should submit articles to OpenBU through My CV. If My CV has not yet been rolled out to your academic unit, there are two ways to submit your final author draft (after peer review and before copy editing and layout) once you have a publication date:

  • use the short web-based form to submit the article, state your access preference, and/or obtain a license waiver; or
  • email your paper to us at articles@bu.edu, providing the same information the web form asks for.

BU Libraries, in consultation with Provosts’ Offices on both campuses and the Office of General Counsel, are implementing the opt-out policy. My CV is being implemented by IS&T, with the Charles River Campus Provost’s Office and BU Libraries as lead clients. Other offices are involved as appropriate.



Two different aspects of the policy can be subject to opt out, separately or together: open access to the article, and the license transfer to BU.

You can specify access options during the article submission process, whether via the <a href=”http://www.bu.edu/library/openaccess/submit-an-article/”>web-based form</a> or via My CV. This will allow you to make your article openly accessible immediately, embargo it for a period of time, or never make it accessible while it remains in copyright.

You may also opt out/obtain a waiver of the license transfer under the policy, if your publisher requires you to do so or for any other reason. If using the BU Libraries <a href=”http://www.bu.edu/library/openaccess/submit-an-article/”>web form</a> discussed above, you may take the waiver option by checking the appropriate checkbox. The waiver will be granted automatically, and you will receive an auto-generated email confirming this. We will supply you with a more formal letter if needed.

If My CV has been rolled out to your academic unit, you may opt out/obtain a waiver of the license transfer through My CV. My CV will automatically generate a waiver acknowledgement letter on BU letterhead, and you can download a PDF file for your records.

Please note: if you obtain a license waiver and then sign rights away in your publishing contract, in most cases you will need to ask the publisher permission before including your own figures in other articles, including your own articles in your course packs, or re-using your own materials in other ways (or authorizing others to do the same).

BU’s license would still have force, because it would have been granted through this policy prior to the signing of the publisher contract. If the publisher expresses concern that cannot be remedied, you have several options. You may:

  • consult with BU Libraries;
  • consult with the Office of General Counsel (617.353.2326, buogc@bu.edu) [Please note: your scholarly articles are owned by you individually and not BU, and the University cannot represent you legally. But we are ready to protect the University’s interest in open access, and will be happy to talk with you to illuminate the issues]; or
  • opt out for that article.

Each joint author holds independent copyright to the article, and under the U.S. copyright law is entitled to grant non-exclusive rights to anyone. The final decision regarding whether to opt out in the event of a co-author’s disagreement is up to you.

The opt out is available for those cases in which it is impossible for an author to work with a publisher or comply with a scholarly society’s policies without it. Even with an opt out option, the policy changes the default for author’s rights. The new given is that BU has rights to openly share BU faculty work, and can extend rights to an author for their use as well—even if the author has given all other rights away to the publisher.

Yes, particularly in cases involving a legal dispute. If you’ve already submitted an article to us and need to obtain a waiver retroactively, please email us at open-help@bu.edu or call 617.358.8564, and we’ll be glad to assist.



Your position as an author is strengthened, not weakened, as a result of this policy. All rights you grant to BU are non-exclusive. You retain your copyright, unless you decide to assign it to a journal publisher. Even if you do assign all other rights to a publisher, the rights you’ve assigned to BU (which apply to the author’s final draft) can be reassigned back to you.

If you run into legal difficulty, you have several options. You may:

  • consult with BU Libraries;
  • consult with the Office of General Counsel (617.353.2326, buogc@bu.edu) (Please note: your scholarly articles are owned by you individually and not BU, and the University cannot represent you legally. But we are ready to protect the University’s interest in open access, and will be happy to talk with you to illuminate the issues); or
  • opt out for that article.

Some articles made available by BU under this policy will appear with a publisher’s copyright statement in addition to a Creative Commons license. The publisher’s copyright statement may indicate that the author has transferred copyright to the publisher, or that copyright is expected to be transferred. Because the BU Open Access Policy operates automatically to give BU a license to any scholarly articles faculty members complete after its adoption, BU’s license predates this transfer of copyright to a publisher. Therefore, while the article’s copyright is held by the publisher, that copyright is subject to BU’s pre-existing license.

BU has chosen to distribute articles under its Open Access Policy using one of the standard Creative Commons licenses: the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. A CC license appearing with an article determines how the article may be used. This particular CC license means that you are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the work) and remix (adapt) the work under the following conditions:

  • Attribution: You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggest that they endorse you or your use of the work);
  • Noncommercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes;
  • Share Alike: If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.

The CC license appearing on OpenBU applies to the version of the article made available at OpenBU, and not to any version made available on a publisher’s website. A publisher may also assign a CC license to their version/copy of the article; the two are separate for the purposes of Creative Commons licensing.



The articles will be archived, preserved, and in most cases made openly accessible in our institutional repository OpenBU. BU has committed to maintaining the repository and ensuring its availability, longevity, and functionality, to the extent technologically feasible. The repository is backed up and made open to harvesting by search services such as OAIster and Google Scholar. Deposit processes will be made as convenient as possible.

BU may further allow others to distribute the content, subject to the Creative Commons license described above. For instance, faculty at other institutions could be given permission to make copies for free distribution directly to their students. However, BU does not have and cannot grant to others the right to sell the articles for a profit or to sell a book containing the articles for a profit.

Not necessarily. Payments that recover costs (such as selling course packs at cost) are permitted. Payments that provide profit are not. In the event of questioned use, the offices of the Provost and General Counsel will provide guidance regarding what is appropriate use of articles made available under the policy.

The license grants BU the right to license others to distribute the work, as long as they do not sell it for a profit. For example, BU could give permission for an article to be used in a course pack (including giving such permission to you if you have otherwise transferred rights), so long as the course pack was not sold for profit.

Yes—in fact, BU actively works to make all items in OpenBU discoverable through searching via popular engines such as Google and Google Scholar. It is one way to make the knowledge BU produces used as widely and productively as possible.

The license allows BU to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use both the articles and information associated with them (such as citations, but not the full text) to provide search and other services—including bibliographic data and citation lists. Such commercial uses are permissible as long as the articles themselves are not sold for a profit, and the use is consistent with the goals of the Open Access Policy.

BU Libraries, reporting to Provosts’ Offices on both campuses, will be monitoring the implementation of the opt-out policy. BU Libraries will be responsible for presenting a report regarding the policy to the Faculty Council three years after its adoption.



Below is a list of AAU institutions that have adopted opt-out policies, with the year of adoption in parentheses. Asterisks indicate sub-institutional mandates. We are not aware of any institution that adopted one and then rescinded it.

  • California Institute of Technology (2013-14)
  • Columbia University* (2011-14)
  • Duke University (2010)
  • Emory University (2011)
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (2013)
  • Harvard University* (2008-12)
  • Indiana University—IUPUI Library* (2010)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2009)
  • McGill University Library* (2012)
  • Princeton University (2011)
  • Rice University (2012)
  • Rutgers University, SUNJ (2013)
  • Stanford University School of Education* (2008)
  • University of California, Berkeley (2013)
  • University of California, Davis (2013)
  • University of California, Irvine (2013)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (2013)
  • University of California, San Diego (2013)
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (2013)
  • University of Colorado Boulder (2013)
  • University of Kansas (2009)
  • University of Oregon* (2009)
  • University of Virginia (2010)

We have seen no evidence to suggest that this policy will harm scholarly publishers or societies, or the peer review process. On the contrary, there is evidence to suggest that open access has not resulted in journal subscription cancellations. (Other factors have influenced subscriptions, including diminished budgets and greatly inflated subscription prices.) The oldest open access subject repository, arXiv, has existed and been widely used since 1991—yet the subjects its literature represents, including high-energy physics, have seen no harm done to their publications. BU continues to believe that journals perform indispensable service to the academic enterprise, and to support the journal model of scholarly publishing.

No. Most journals already participate in the open access movement by having policies that permit some form of open access. The changes BU’s policy brings to those in tenure processes are positive: increased exposure and opportunities for scholarly feedback, and the increased possibility of integrating multiple administrative processes to make tenure review run more smoothly. Finally, in the rare cases where a publisher refuses to cooperate with the policy, the opt out option remains available.

This policy will greatly increase access to BU’s intellectual output. For other universities, particularly those that cannot afford to subscribe to some of the journals in which we publish, this will mean the ability to access our research where before they could not.

More generally, we believe that increased adoption of similar policies will continue to improve scholarly communication, increasing dialogue and the production of new knowledge.

The policy will increase the exposure of new knowledge we produce, and therefore its impact. There is evidence of significant citation advantage to openly accessible materials. In addition, placing the responsibility for access increasingly with academic libraries rather than with publishers increases the chances of longer-term consistent access, and decouples long-term access from initial production and marketing costs.

The policy will also give BU a means of negotiating for more attractive terms with publishers. This is significant in an environment where the three largest publishers control over 40% of the market and library expenditures for journals over the past 30 years have increased at roughly four times the rate that Consumer Price Index did in the same time period.



Open access is access to knowledge that is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. When we talk about open access at BU in the context of scholarly literature, the formats we usually include are scholarly journal articles and theses/dissertations.

Open access journals publish only OA materials. There are many business models for this, including but not limited to charging fees per article published.

Open access, however, includes much more than OA journals. Over 70% of the nearly 1700 publishers in the SHERPA/RoMEO policies database have some sort of provision for open access archiving. With some notable exceptions, scholarly publishers have expressed support for open access and are actively participating in it.

Some openly accessible scholarly materials are peer reviewed; others are not. The same is true of toll-access (pay to read) scholarly materials.

The legal framework for copyright is that you can’t give away what you don’t have. BU will have been granted nonexclusive rights, and will not be able in turn to grant exclusive rights. BU, however, will be able to exercise all of the other rights under copyright, including reproducing, displaying, distributing, and making derivative works of articles covered by the policy, as long as these activities are not done for profit.

As part of offering you a publication contract, many toll access (pay to read) journals offer authors the option of paying a fee to make their article open access. These fees are called article processing charges (APCs), and the version of the article they apply to is the publisher’s final version. The opt-out policy applies to the author’s final draft, after peer review but before copyediting and layout. The payment of an APC will not be required as a result of this policy.

In the context of a faculty policy, it made sense to focus it on the faculty. Separately, BU has transitioned to electronic submission of theses and dissertations, and will make those available in OpenBU as well (sometimes after an embargo). In addition, the many papers that our students co-author with faculty are covered by this policy. Finally, anyone affiliated with BU is encouraged to make their work available in OpenBU. Submitting procedures are described here. Please contact us if you have questions.

The U.S. government’s increasing push for open access to taxpayer-funded research is one factor that has contributed to the changes in the scholarly communication environment. Other factors include the rise of networked communications over the last several decades, and the unsustainable journal pricing increases of the same time period.

The NIH Public Access policy, which requires that all publicly funded research be made openly accessible 12 months after publication, was initially opt-in (essentially optional). Compliance rate was around 4%. Since it became mandatory, and further funding began to depend on prior compliance, access to taxpayer-funded research has greatly improved. The benefit of this to society is difficult to overestimate.

For the first several years of its existence, BU’s open access policy was also opt-in. Compliance rate was less than 1%. We anticipate a similarly dramatic boost in compliance, and therefore impact of BU research in the world, after the opt-out policy is adopted.

BU strongly supports open access, which can take many forms. Journals which are published entirely open-access are one of those forms. Endorsement, however, follows content quality, not form. BU endorses (by subscribing to them and/or including them in its library search results) to journals it considers valuable additions to their fields.

Different fields have very different practices for delaying open access to publications, and in many cases delay is not necessary. Building a delay into the policy itself was impractical. The article submission process includes options for delay of different lengths in addition to an option to opt out entirely.

We will make every effort to minimize confusion over citation. We will:

  • place links to final publisher versions into OpenBU metadata;
  • provide correct example citations for OpenBU items, which make versioning clear;
  • aim to enable automatic creation for a cover sheet for each downloaded PDF, which among other information will include the URL of the final published version.

Issues around versioning are native to the internet, and this policy neither eliminates nor exacerbates them. BU is keeping a close eye on technological developments that address these problems.

Where a publisher assigns a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or another unique identifier to an article, we will include a link to that identifier in the OpenBU record, and clearly mark it as the publisher’s final version. This version may or may not be available, depending on whether the end user has access to a subscription to that journal.

Where a DOI or other unique identifier is not assigned but there is a URL for the article, we will point to that URL. We will try to the best of our ability to keep our links up to date, but cannot guarantee that they will work in the absence of a unique identifier.

Predatory open access journals charge authors large publication fees, but do not provide the value added services we normally associate with journals (such as intellectually solid peer review, editing, and/or production values). Since we work in reputation-based fields, such journals and their publishers quickly gain reputations as entities to avoid. Spotting them can be challenging, but here are some things to ask yourself if you are considering publishing with a journal:

  • Are they a known entity in your field?
  • What else have they published? How is the quality, in your judgment?
  • Do you know anyone associated with their editorial board, that you can check in with?
  • Do you know anyone who has published with them?
  • Does a web search for the journal name and the word predatory yield anything of interest from credible sources?

If you have questions or concerns about a particular journal, please contact us (open-help@bu.edu or 617.358.8564) and we’ll be happy to research it for you.