FAQ: Open Access

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.

Well! We are so glad you asked.

In 2008-09, the University approved an open access plan. We declared that open access is good for us and for society, and that we would participate in it. We set up an institutional repository. We began formal efforts to make BU scholarship as widely available as possible.

In 2009, School of Theology began requiring that graduate theses and dissertations be submitted on paper and electronically. They were then archived in OpenBU, openly by default, but with optional embargoes.

In 2013, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences began requiring electronic-only submission of theses and dissertations. MED and STH have followed. As of January 1, 2015, all BU theses and dissertations will be submitted electronically and, again, archived in OpenBU—openly by default, but with optional embargoes in certain circumstances. For more information on this, please refer to the Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations, and to your School or College.

In spring of 2014, the Faculty Council voted on a new, opt-out policy for scholarly articles produced by BU faculty. On 11 February 2015 the University Council adopted and ratified the new, opt-out open access policy, which states that the final author drafts of all peer reviewed scholarly articles will be deposited to OpenBU, and that by default they’ll be openly accessible. Authors may opt out, on a per-article basis.

The opt-out policy and BU’s decision to go all-electronic and open-access with theses and dissertations attest to BU’s commitment to disseminating the fruits of its research as widely as possible, in order to maximize benefit to society.For further information please read the Open Access Policy FAQ.

We realize that not all our graduate students will go on to academic careers. We believe that being informed about open access is important no matter what choices you make after you graduate.

Open access for new knowledge you produce means a more significant contribution to your field: the more people can find your work, the greater its potential benefit to others. The more people can find your name attached to work that you’ve done, the better you look to employers.

Open access to others’ work is also critical while you’re doing your research. BU may or may not have subscriptions to journals you need; you may or may not find what you need through interlibrary loan (and if you do, it will take a while to get to you). Research is aided enormously by easy, often keyword-based access to knowledge.

This holds no matter what you do in life. Whether you farm, help an ill relative, or are in a position to decide whether nations should go to war, access to knowledge is critical to the fullness of our collective life.

There’s nothing inherent in open access that connects to quality one way or the other. Some OA materials do lack quality; some toll-access materials do as well. It is up to you to discern the quality of any material you use. Things like peer review and publication reputation can help. The ultimate decision is yours, however.

Not necessarily, perhaps even not usually. Some publications (both open access and toll access) impose article processing charges (APCs) on articles that then enjoy immediate OA publication. APCs are often paid with grant funds. In many cases, it’s easy to avoid APCs altogether by delaying making your article openly accessible. This delay is called an embargo, and its length (usually 6-24 months) is generally imposed by the journal publisher. The publisher also often specifies which version of the article can be made available after the embargo expires. Often it’s the author’s final draft, after peer review but before copy editing and layout.

The SHERPA/RoMEO service based at the University of Nottingham has information on many publishers’ open access policies. You are also welcome and warmly invited to contact us to talk about ways of making your research openly accessible, and/or your options as regards a specific journal.

They are graduate theses and dissertations submitted electronically, often preserved in a digital repository, and usually made freely available online.

We have many thousands of paper theses and dissertations in storage. Some of them also exist on microfilm. Extensive circulation data show that these works aren’t being used very much. Not only is it hard and expensive to keep all these books for decades (and occasionally lose one or more to mold), they’re also difficult for researchers to obtain.

So BU has decided to have them submitted electronically, and deposited into our institutional repository OpenBU. In addition, the Libraries are digitizing BU theses and dissertations from the beginning of the university until 1963 inclusive, after which copyright laws change and we’ll have to reconsider our workflows. Our ultimate goal is to have all of BU’s graduate theses and dissertations be available online, for free, as allowed within the current legal framework.

Electronic submission saves you and us considerable expense (physical paperwork, acid-free paper, binding, storage, transportation, and other hassles). The submission process is transparent, and there are opportunities for communication at every step. Most importantly, we get to help make your work as widely discoverable as possible (for why that’s a good thing, see discussion of OA above).

Sometimes there are good reasons to embargo open access to a thesis or dissertation. Common ones are pending patents and/or publication, and creative works submitted as final graduate work. As you submit, you may request an embargo—we will still deposit your work into OpenBU, but it won’t be viewable or downloadable for the length of the embargo period. Rules governing embargo requests differ by school/college. Please refer to the Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations and to your graduate office for more information.

Please refer to the Guide for Writers of Theses and Dissertations and to your graduate office for more BU-specific information.

In spring of 2014, the CUNY Graduate Center Library held a symposium titled “Share It Now or Save It for Later: Making Choices about Dissertations and Publishing.” Audio excerpts from the speakers’ remarks may prove useful to you as you consider whether to request embargo for your work.

We recommend several places.

Some examples are:

In addition, the Directory of Open Access Journals lists over 10,000 other journals you may peruse, well over half of those searchable through DOAJ at the article level.

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?