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Open Access: Open Access Policy

Introduction to Open Access Resources and Information

OA Policy FAQ

Includes content adapted from OA policy FAQs of Simon Fraser University and MIT.

Q.   How does the policy benefit me?

A.   Many studies have clearly shown that articles available freely online are cited more often and have greater impact than those that are not freely available. The policy provides an easy, systematic way for you to legally make your own scholarly writings openly accessible and enables the University of Lethbridge to help you do so.  While many faculty already make their writings available online, some are prevented from doing so by limits on sharing in their copyright transfer or author publishing agreements.

Q.   Will the policy limit my academic freedom or interfere with STP processes?

A.    No, because in all cases you remain free to choose whether, how, when, and where to publish your scholarly writings.  The waiver option protects authors who publish in journals with policies that are inconsistent with the proposed U of L policy.

Q.   If we can get a waiver, why do we need this policy—isn’t it an unnecessary step?

A.    The main idea – having the faculty grant a blanket non-exclusive license to the university to make their articles publicly accessible – is to change the current default so that some rights to faculty articles are routinely retained by the institution instead of having authors give all of their rights away (per tradition) to commercial publishers.  The waiver covers the few publishers who do not support OA in either of its two main forms: archiving of accepted manuscripts, and publishing in OA journals. 

Q.   Could we just write a waiver into the policy in a way that makes it automatically take effect with no action by authors?

A.    We could, but experiences and legal research of other institutions that have adopted similar OA policies suggest that doing so would likely unintentionally weaken the policy by introducing ambiguities.

Q.   Is the U of L taking control of the articles I write?

A.   No, you retain ownership and complete control of copyrights in your writings, subject only to the limited prior non-exclusive permissions granted to the U of L. You are free to exercise your copyrights in any way you see fit, including transferring them to a publisher.  If you do so, however, the U of L will retain its non-exclusive license and the right to distribute your articles in OPUS.  

Q.   How can the policy apply to me if I don’t know any reputable OA publishers or journals in my field? 

A.   The policy recognizes that for many researchers, the preferred venue for their scholarly articles remains traditional subscription-based journals.  That is why the policy focuses specifically on authors’ accepted manuscripts (AAMs) since most commercial academic and scholarly society publishers already permit archiving of AAMs in institutional research repositories like OPUS.

Q.   If most publishers already permit local archiving of AAMs, why do we need an OA policy? 

A.   At most universities, ours included, very few researchers on their own initiative have taken the necessary steps to add their AAMs to the institution’s repository.  The process of establishing a policy will help raise awareness of the policy’s aims, benefits, and supports. 

Q.   What happens if a journal I publish in doesn’t allow local archiving of manuscripts of any sort?

A.   That’s ok. In such cases you would apply for a waiver for each accepted manuscript.  The waiver will always be granted, no questions asked.

Q.   What support will be offered to faculty, especially in the back and forth with publishers regarding licensing? Do we have enough staff to provide this?

A.    By design, the proposed policy will not require authors to do any negotiating with publishers for the right to archive their articles in OPUS.  At the same time, supports needed by faculty to easily comply with the proposed OA policy is something we are keen to hear from faculty about, so that workable processes and sources of help can be put in place.  Supporting this policy initiative is a major focus of the Library.

Q.   Will I have to spend a lot of extra time reading my author publishing agreements carefully to ensure they don’t conflict with the policy? 

No, by design the initiative strives to keep the time and effort required for policy compliance to a minimum. All submissions to OPUS will continue to be assessed by OPUS staff, and only those that are in compliance with publishers' policies will be made publicly available in OPUS. Upon adoption, the responsible U of L office will widely publicize the policy in a manner similar to that of the University of California. If your publisher is not among those directly notified, you will be able to inform the publisher by providing a link to the policy. The University Copyright Advisor will be available if assistance in interpreting your publisher agreement is desired, and if conflicts are encountered that cannot be overcome, you will have the option to seek a waiver for the article in question, which will always be granted.

Q.   What is the relationship between the U of L policy and the Tri-Agency OA Policy?

A.   The two policies complement each other.  If you comply with the Tri-Agency Policy by making your AAM publicly available in OPUS within 12 months of publication you will also comply with U of L’s OA policy.  And by sending your AAM to the Library immediately upon acceptance, you will ensure compliance with the Tri-Agency policy whenever the journal you chose permits public access within 12 months of publication via an institution’s research repository.

Q.   Does the proposed policy apply to co-authored papers?

A.   Yes, the policy covers scholarly articles authored or co-authored by U of L faculty, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. If there are multiple U of L authors, only one copy of the article needs to be submitted.

Q.   What is the status of papers I published before the policy is adopted?

A.    The Library welcomes older submissions, but the policy applies only to scholarly articles published after adoption of the policy.  If you have questions regarding deposit of your previous scholarly work in OPUS, please contact or your Subject Librarian.

Q.   How do I get a clean AAM for submission to OPUS?

A.    You can request a clean copy of the finalized text of an article from the publisher following all revisions. If you would like help obtaining a clean copy, please contact, as the Library will be happy to assist.

Q.   What if my publisher’s policy requires an embargo period on public access to my AAM?

A.    Part of the Library’s procedures for ingesting submitted AAMs into OPUS is to check for publishers’ embargos.  If an embargo period applies to your article, public access to it will be suppressed in OPUS until after the embargo period expires.

Q.   Won’t the policy introduce version proliferation and citation confusion?

A.    With or without this policy, the scholarly community will need to sort out solutions to the problem of version control in digital scholarship. There are technical and standard-based solutions in development that will eventually help. In the meantime, OPUS will provide a persistent link to the journal website where the publisher’s version of record (VOR) can be read by individuals with personal or institutional subscription access.  In addition, OPUS will provide a Request button that will generate an email that requests the university author to provide a copy of the article on a scholarly sharing basis.

Q.   What will happen if researchers don’t follow the policy?

A.    The intent of the proposed policy is to encourage and enable U of L authors to contribute as many of their scholarly articles as possible to OPUS.  The policy will not specify any consequences of non-compliance or involve any monitoring of researchers’ publishing activities.  If a researcher holds a Tri-Agency grant from May 2015 or later and does not make their published scholarly article on the research available on an OA basis within the specified 12-month period, however, it seems reasonable to think this could affect their chances of success in subsequent grant applications.

Q.   Will the content be accessible without having to come to the U of L page (OPUS)?

A.    Yes. Any work deposited in OPUS is automatically indexed by Google, Google Scholar, and other major search engines.
In Spring 2018 we analyzed articles already in OPUS to find out how many represent unique, copyright-compliant content that otherwise would only be available behind paywalls.  We found via Google Scholar that the only freely available source for 75 of those articles is the locally archived copy in OPUS. We will also actively pursue opportunities to have OPUS indexed by other search tools, especially those focusing on institutional repository content like CORE.

Q.   Does the draft policy violate the Faculty Handbook (FH) article on intellectual property?

A.    It seems unlikely. The section of the FH dealing with copyright provides that except when members are explicitly required to create works as part of their assigned duties, the members are the owners of copyright in the works they produce in the course of employment. It is critically important that faculty are the copyright owners of their scholarly articles, as the draft policy proposes that faculty collectively exercise their rights as copyright owners by choosing to grant the University the non-exclusive permission to archive and publicly disseminate their scholarly articles. In other words, the FH provisions on copyright enable faculty to grant the non-exclusive rights proposed in the policy.

Q.   Why does the draft policy require faculty to cede significant rights to the University?

A.    The draft policy does not ask faculty to surrender any rights to the University. Instead, it proposes that faculty collectively grant non-exclusive permission to publicly disseminate their articles in OPUS. Faculty would not be alienating any of their copyrights as the granted permission is non-exclusive, meaning that the same permission may be granted to others. Each author would still own the copyrights in their article and would remain free to exercise them independently. The policy seeks to have faculty give blanket non-exclusive permission to the University to make their articles openly accessible in ways that publishers’ policies already permit but few faculty currently pursue.

Q.   Does the policy really need to grant “irrevocable” permission to archive articles “in any medium”?

A.    “Irrevocable” permission and disseminate “in any medium” are terms that commonly appear in non-exclusive licenses for repository content, an example being the distribution license our grad students must grant to the University for their e-theses. The granted permission is said to be "irrevocable" to ensure the permanence of public archiving for university authors’ articles. This does not mean an archived article may never be suppressed from public access. The granted permission to archive authors' articles "in any medium" is a necessary provision because the University needs to be able to port the contents of OPUS to future platforms and media without having to seek permission to do so from the copyright owner of each archived item.

Q.   Won’t adoption of the draft policy harm small scholarly presses?

A.    It is unlikely that the proposed policy will harm small presses since each publisher determines whether to allow or prohibit public archiving of authors' accepted manuscripts (AAMs) . If a publisher is concerned that freely available AAMs could compromise its subscription base, they will disallow public archiving of AAMs. In such cases, the author can request a policy waiver for that article, which will always be granted. AAMs are also unlikely to reduce the volume of JSTOR's revenue-generating clicks for small presses since researchers who are JSTOR users will almost certainly continue to use JSTOR as long as the Library continues its subscription. Such researchers will probably be unaware that OPUS offers alternative AAM sources for content indexed in JSTOR.

Q.   Shouldn’t ULFA be involved in the resolution of disputes arising from the policy?

A.    Disputes are not anticipated, as the policy is aspirational in nature and intentionally contains no enforcement measures. But in any case, since the collective agreement for academic staff contains resolution mechanisms to resolve issues involving ULFA members’ rights, it seems unnecessary to specify them here.

University of Lethbridge Open Access Policy

1. Purpose

1.1. This Policy identifies the archiving and dissemination of scholarly articles authored by University Authors to promote the creation and transmission of knowledge, with proper consideration given to robust public access to that knowledge and to the need for an educated citizenry.

1.2. This Policy is aspirational and intended to encourage open access to scholarly work. While the University expects authors to participate, no University sanctions will result from failure to comply.

2. Definitions

For purposes of this Policy:

2.1. “University Authors” shall mean the University of Lethbridge faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows in an author or co-author capacity.

3. Policy

3.1. University Authors are encouraged to provide the University of Lethbridge Library an electronic copy of the finalized text of all scholarly articles. The electronic copy shall be submitted to OPUS upon publication.

3.2. University Authors grant the University of Lethbridge the non-exclusive permission to permanently archive, preserve, reproduce and openly disseminate, in any medium1, all scholarly articles authored by the University Author, provided that the articles are properly attributed to the University Authors; this permission is granted for the sole objective of archiving the articles for non-commercial purposes. Permission is granted on the understanding that University Authors will not be charged any use or service fees for activities associated with this Policy.

3.3. The University of Lethbridge Library will make the scholarly article available to the public, taking into consideration requirements for access delay.

3.4. The Provost & Vice-President (Academic), in consultation with the University Librarian, will be responsible for this Policy.

4. Exclusions

4.1. Subject to applicable Legislation, this Policy will not be interpreted or applied so as to limit or amend the provisions contained in any Handbook, collective agreement or employment manual entered into between the Board of Governors of the University of Lethbridge and its employees.

4.2. This Policy does not cover any articles published before the adoption of this policy, and any articles for which the University Author entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this Policy.

4.3. The application of this Policy to any particular article will be waived automatically (via web request form) upon request by a University Author.

5. Policy Review

5.1. This Policy will be reviewed after three years and annually a report shall be presented to General Faculties Council through the GFC Library Committee.

1The granted permission includes the ability to archive and openly disseminate articles “in any medium” only to ensure the content of the University of Lethbridge’s research repository can be migrated to other archiving and dissemination media and platforms as the need arises..

OA Policy Approved

At its December 9, 2019 meeting, the University's General Faculties Council passed a motion to adopt the proposed Open Access Policy.  The approved policy is effective December 9, 2019. 

Letter to Publishers

The Library has reached out to publishers to inform them of the University's Open Access Policy.

See the Notification to Publishers on the OA Policy page for more information.


UWeekly Series on the OA Policy

Policy Brief

This 2-page brief outlines the policy's purpose, context, rationale, and benefits for researchers.

Policy Background Document

This 5-page document accompanied the draft policy when it went to the September 2019 meeting of General Faculties Council as an item for discussion.