UC Open Access: How to Comply

Free access to UC research is almost as good as free hugs! From Flickr by mhauri

Free access to UC research is almost as good as free hugs! From Flickr by mhauri

My last two blog posts have been about the new open access policy that applies to the entire University of California system. For big open science nerds like myself, this is exciting progress and deserves much ado. For the on-the-ground researcher at a UC, knee-deep in grants and lecture preparation, the ado could probably be skipped in lieu of a straightforward explanation of how to comply with the procedure. So here goes.

Who & When:

  • 1 November 2013: Faculty at UC Irvine, UCLA, and UCSF
  • 1 November 2014: Faculty at UC Berkeley, UC Merced, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Riverside

Note: The policy applies only to ladder-rank faculty members. Of course, graduate students and postdocs should strongly consider participating as well.

To comply, faculty members have two options:

Option 1: Out-of-the-box open access

. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Publishing in an open access-only journal (see examples here). Some have fees and others do not.
  2. Publishing with a more traditional publisher, but paying a fee to ensure the manuscript is publicly available. These are article-processing charges (APCs) and vary widely depending on the journal. For example, Elsevier’s Ecological Informatics charges $2,500, while Nature charges $5,200.

Learn more about different journals’ fees and policies: Directory of Open Access Journals: www.doaj.org

Option 2: Deposit your final manuscript in an open access repository.

In this scenario, you can publish in whatever journal you prefer – regardless of its openness. Once the manuscript is published, you take action to make a version of the article freely and openly available.

As UC faculty (or any UC researcher, including grad students and postdocs), you can comply via Option 2 above by depositing your publications in UC’s eScholarship open access repository. The CDL Access & Publishing Group is currently perfecting a user-friendly, efficient workflow for managing article deposits into eScholarship. The new workflow will be available as of November 1stLearn more.

Does this still sound like too much work? Good news! The Publishing Group is also working on a harvesting tool that will automate deposit into eScholarship. Stay tuned – the estimated release of this tool is June 2014.

An Addendum: Are you not a UC affiliate? Don’t fret! You can find your own version of eScholarship (i.e., an open access repository) by going to OpenDOAR. Also see my full blog post about making your publications open access.


Academic libraries must pay exorbitant fees to provide their patrons (researchers) with access to scholarly publications.  The very patrons who need these publications are the ones who provide the content in the form of research articles.  Essentially, the researchers are paying for their own work, by proxy via their institution’s library.

What if you don’t have access? Individuals without institutional affiliations (e.g., between jobs), or who are affiliated with institutions that have no/a poorly funded library (e.g., in 2nd or 3rd world countries), depend on open access articles for keeping up with the scholarly literature. The need for OA isn’t limited to jobless or international folks, though. For proof, one only has to notice that the Twitter community has developed a hash tag around this, #Icanhazpdf (Hat tip to the Lolcats phenomenon). Basically, you tweet the name of the article you can’t access and add the hashtag in hopes that someone out in the Twittersphere can help you out and send it to you.

Special thanks to Catherine Mitchell from the CDL Publishing & Access Group for help on this post.

A Closer Look at the New UC Open Access Policy

The UC is opening up their research locker.  From Flickr by sam.d

The UC is opening up their research locker. From Flickr by sam.d

Last week, the University of California announced a new Open Access Policy. Here I will explore the policy in a bit more detail.  The gist of the policy is this: research articles authored by UC faculty will be made available to the public at no charge.

I’m sure most of this blog’s readers are familiar with paywalls and the nuances of scholarly publishing, but for those that aren’t – if you don’t have a license to get content from particular journals (via your institution’s library, for example) then you may pay upwards of $100 per article. For example, if I publish an amazing article in Nature (and don’t pay the $5,200 fee to make my article open access), my mom can’t get a copy of the article to hang on her fridge without either (1) getting a copy from someone with access, or (2) paying a big fee. Considering that my mom pays taxes that fund the NSF which funded my work, this is rather strange.

The UC policy is trying to change that. The idea is that faculty at the UC will grant a license to the UC prior to any contractual arrangement with publishers. The faculty member then has the right to make their research will be widely and publicly available, re-use it for various purposes, or modify it for future research publications – regardless of the publisher’s wishes for locking down the work.

Faculty will continue to publish their work in the most appropriate journal (open access or not). The big change is that now they can also place a copy of the publication in UC’s open access repository, eScholarship, which is freely accessible to anyone. To re-emphasize: This policy does NOT require that faculty publish in particular journals or pay “Article Processing Charges” to ensure their article is open access.

From the policy’s FAQ  page:

Faculty are strongly encouraged to continue to publish as normal, in the most appropriate and prestigious journals. Faculty are not required to pay to publish articles or pay to deposit them in an open-access repository under this policy, unless they choose to do so.

How faculty can comply (from the FAQ page):

By passing the policy on July 24, 2013, UC faculty members have committed themselves to making their scholarly articles available to the public by granting a license to UC and depositing a copy of their publications in eScholarship, UC’s open access repository. The policy automatically grants UC a license to make any scholarly articles available in an open access repository. UC will not do so, however, until an author takes the action of depositing an article in UC’s eScholarship repository or confirms the availability of the article in another open access venue – i.e., a repository (such as PubMed Central, ArXiv or SSRN) or an open access journal.

The California Digital Library and the campus libraries will assist faculty by providing a streamlined deposit system into eScholarship and an automated ‘harvesting’ tool in order to ease the process of depositing articles, is expected to be in place by June 2014.

And now, the downside. Michael Eisen, co-founder of the open access journal PLOS, points out the potential downside of the new policy in his blog post:

This policy has a major, major hole – an optional faculty opt-out. This is there because enough faculty wanted the right to publish their works in ways that were incompatible with the policy that the policy would not have passed without the provision.  Unfortunately, this means that the policy is completely toothless.

Eisen goes on to say

…because of the opt out, this is a largely symbolic gesture – a minor event in the history of open access, not the watershed event that some people are making it out to be.

Although I agree with Eisen that the opt-out clause significantly weakens the strength of this policy, I still believe this move on the UC’s part represents a major step forward in the battle to reclaim our scholarly work from some publishers. Perhaps it isn’t “watershed” but it’s certainly exciting, and it’s stimulating conversations about open science and accessibility to research.

Read more on the new policy and related topics:

UC Faculty Senate Passes #OA Policy

Big news! I just got this email regarding the new Open Access Policy for the University of California System. I’ll write a full blog post next week but wanted to share this as soon as possible. (emphasis is mine)

The Academic Senate of the University of California has passed an Open Access Policy, ensuring that future research articles authored by faculty at all 10 campuses of UC will be made available to the public at no charge. “The Academic Council’s adoption of this policy on July 24, 2013, came after a six-year process culminating in two years of formal review and revision,” said Robert Powell, chair of the Academic Council. “Council’s intent is to make these articles widely—and freely— available in order to advance research everywhere.”  Articles will be available to the public without charge via eScholarship (UC’s open access repository) in tandem with their publication in scholarly journals.  Open access benefits researchers, educational institutions, businesses, research funders and the public by accelerating the pace of research, discovery and innovation and contributing to the mission of advancing knowledge and encouraging new ideas and services.

Chris Kelty, Associate Professor of Information Studies, UCLA, and chair of the UC University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), explains, “This policy will cover more faculty and more research than ever before, and it sends a powerful message that faculty want open access and they want it on terms that benefit the public and the future of research.”

The policy covers more than 8,000 UC faculty at all 10 campuses of the University of California, and as many as 40,000 publications a year. 

It follows more than 175 other universities who have adopted similar so-called “green” open access policies.  By granting a license to the University of California prior to any contractual arrangement with publishers, faculty members can now make their research widely and publicly available, re-use it for various purposes, or modify it for future research publications.  Previously, publishers had sole control of the distribution of these articles.  All research publications covered by the policy will continue to be subjected to rigorous peer review; they will still appear in the most prestigious journals across all fields; and they will continue to meet UC’s standards of high quality.  Learn more about the policy and its implementation here: http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/openaccesspolicy/

UC is the largest public research university in the world and its faculty members receive roughly 8% of all research funding in the U.S.

With this policy UC Faculty make a commitment to the public accessibility of research, especially, but not only, research paid for with public funding by the people of California and the United States.  This initiative is in line with the recently announced White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) directive requiring “each Federal Agency with over $100 million in annual conduct of research and development expenditures to develop a plan to support increased public access to results of the research funded by the Federal Government.” The new UC Policy also follows a similar policy passed in 2012 by the Academic Senate at the University of California, San Francisco, which is a health sciences campus.

“The UC Systemwide adoption of an Open Access (OA) Policy represents a major leap forward for the global OA movement and a well-deserved return to taxpayers who will now finally be able to see first-hand the published byproducts of their deeply appreciated investments in research” said Richard A. Schneider, Professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and chair of the Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication at UCSF.   “The ten UC campuses generate around 2-3% of all the peer-reviewed articles published in the world every year, and this policy will make many of those articles freely  available to anyone who is interested anywhere, whether they are colleagues, students, or members of the general public”

The adoption of this policy across the UC system also signals to scholarly publishers that open access, in terms defined by faculty and not by publishers, must be part of any future scholarly publishing system.  The faculty remains committed to working with publishers to transform the publishing landscape in ways that are sustainable and beneficial to both the University and the public.

More information: http://osc.universityofcalifornia.edu/openaccesspolicy/


University of California, Berkeley campus, 1901. Contributed to Calisphere by the Berkeley Public Library.

University of California, Berkeley campus, 1901. Contributed to Calisphere by the Berkeley Public Library.