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Frequently Asked Questions About the GW Faculty Open Access Resolution

Purpose of the Resolution

Scope of the Resolution

Participating in the Resolution

Opting Out (Obtaining a Waiver)

Legal Aspects

What Will Be Done with the Works?

Impact of Resolution on Scholarly Publishing

More Information


Purpose of the Resolution

What is the purpose of The George Washington University Open Access Resolution?

The Open Access Resolution supports the broad dissemination of GW’s research and scholarship to bring increased recognition to authors and to the institution. The publications are freely available to anyone, anywhere.

What is the benefit to me?

Openly sharing your works online brings more visibility to your research. Studies have shown that publications that are freely available are cited more often and have greater impact than those that are not freely available. Depositing your works in GW's institutional repository ensures they are centrally available, backed up, preserved, and searchable via search engines such as Google and Google Scholar. Publications from the repository are recognized by Google as scholarly works and, therefore, tend to rank more highly than publications simply available on a web page.

What other research universities have open access policies?

Numerous institutions, including many top-tier US research universities, have adopted open access policies. Universities that have adopted open access policies include MIT, Duke, Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, University of Virginia, Rice University and Emory. Research funders are supporting such efforts as well. For instance, the National Institutes of Health now require posting of articles derived from research they fund to the National Library of Medicine’s free full-text archive, PubMed Central. A current list of institutions with open access policies is maintained at The Registry of Open Access Repositories Mandatory Archiving Policies (ROARMAP).

Why does GW want to have an open access resolution?

The resolution will increase the impact of GW research by making it more widely available. Studies show a large citation advantage for open access articles, but restrictive publisher business models limit wide sharing through onerous terms in contracts with university libraries and individual authors. Some publishers prohibit authors from posting their work openly on the web, and publishers commonly ‘rent’ access to their content, putting access at risk following cancellation of subscriptions. Performing systematic searching, advanced indexing, or analysis are prohibited in virtually all contracts.

The resolution will also allow for GW’s research and scholarly works to be preserved in its institutional repository, GW ScholarSpace. GW ScholarSpace will ensure the accessibility, long-term preservation, and file integrity of each deposited work.

Scope of the Resolution

What about books and other text publications besides articles?

The Open Access Resolution applies to scholarly articles, but faculty members are encouraged to also make other scholarly works available for open dissemination. An advantage of having a book in the open access repository is wider availability and visibility.  For books that go out of print, having it in the repository will keep it circulating much longer. Authors would not include material in the repository if

  • the agreement with the publisher does not permit open access archiving or
  • copyrighted materials included in the book preclude it from being made available under open access

The same is true of other unique forms of publication (e.g. white papers, technical reports, etc.).

What about movies, documentaries, oral histories, etc. that I publish?

The repository can manage multimedia files in addition to text works. As with books, if it is not possible to obtain permission to include these as open access works, you should not place them in the repository for open dissemination.

What version of the publication needs to be submitted to participate in this resolution?

This decision should follow the original publisher's guidelines. Some publishers may prefer that the copyedited, formatted version be submitted while others will only allow the final peer-reviewed manuscript prior to copy editing and formatting to be made available under open access. The library can work with you to determine the correct version to include in the repository. For more information about publishers’ policies, visit SHERPA/RoMEO.

Should students also participate in the Open Access Resolution?

The Open Access Resolution only applies to faculty members at GW; however, if faculty or student organizations would like to promote and preserve exceptional student works, journals, etc. please contact the Scholarly Communications Committee.

Participating in the Resolution

How do I participate in the Resolution?

The resolution automatically gives GW a perpetual royalty-free non-exclusive license to distribute the works, unless an opt-out waiver has been signed (see Opting Out). When signing publishing agreements for the publication of an article, you should let the publisher know that the agreement is subject to a prior license agreement with George Washington University. You may also submit the Authors Addendum to Publication Agreement with your publication agreement to the publisher.

What if I cannot publish my work with a publisher because of this resolution?

You have multiple options in this situation

  • talk with the publisher and try to negotiate your rights as an author in order to be able to publish your article and place a copy of it in GW ScholarSpace;
  • find an alternative publisher that will accept the license. A list of journals and their open access policies can be found at SHERPA/RoMEO;
  • consult with the Library about taking steps to address the publisher's specific concerns;  
  • obtain a waiver for the article under the policy (see "Opting Out").

My publisher has a policy to allow the publication to be available in an open access repository 6 or 12 months after publication. How is that handled?

The Library can place an embargo on the publication when it is submitted to the repository as required by the publisher. During the length of time required by the embargo, the publication will not be made available through GW ScholarSpace until the embargo has expired. When submitting your work through the GW ScholarSpace Deposit Form, please indicate the embargo period in the 'Embargo' field.

I'm a co-author on a paper and the other authors are from different institutions. Do I still need to submit it to the repository?

Yes. Each co-author of an article holds copyright in the article and, individually, can grant GW a non-exclusive license.

Does the resolution apply to publications I've written before this resolution was in place?

No. Publications or publishing agreements that were signed prior to the adoption of this resolution do not need to comply with the resolution. Authors may, however, include their past publications in the repository if the publishers do not forbid their doing so.

How do I submit my publication to the institutional repository?

You may submit your work through the GW ScholarSpace Deposit Form and the Library will make sure it is uploaded for you.

If you are affiliated with the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the School of Nursing, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, or the GW Biostatistics Center, you may submit your articles to Himmelfarb Library's Health Sciences Research Commons.

If you are affiliated with the George Washington University Law School you may submit materials to their Scholarly Commons Repository.

Who is responsible for the implementation of the resolution?

The Library is working on an implementation plan that will provide the services needed to support faculty participation. The goal is to increase your visibility so you receive more recognition for your research, not to create an additional burden. This plan will be developed in consultation with faculty to ensure it meets their needs.

I already submit my publications to another open access repository. Do I still need to submit them to GW?

You can provide a link to the article in the GW ScholarSpace Deposit Form. The record in GW’s institutional repository will identify the published version and any other sources where the article is held so that users can find the article in the authoritative site.

Librarians from GW Libraries will coordinate with librarians at Burns Law and Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library for publications deposited in those open access repositories so that authors will not be submitting their works to multiple GW open access platforms.

My department/lab maintains its own publications database with our publications. Is that sufficient for participating in the resolution?

The publications also need to go into the institutional repository where they will be backed up and preserved for the long term, but there is no need for you to submit the article more than once. The library will gladly work with you on getting the publications uploaded through an automatic process. Please contact us if you want to transfer publications from an existing GW database.

Opting Out (Obtaining a Waiver)

Why is there an "opt out" option?

The overall objective of the Open Access Resolution is to make your research more visible and to acknowledge the work you have done at a broader level than can be achieved with costly subscription-only or for-purchase publishing. We recognize, however, that there may sometimes be other considerations where those interests would not necessarily be advanced through this resolution. Sometimes the inclusion of copyrighted materials in the work will preclude its open dissemination, or the agreement with the publisher may preclude open dissemination. Recognizing that there are legitimate exceptions, an opt-out waiver has been included as part of the resolution.

How do I opt out?

The Provost’s designate, the Dean of Libraries and Academic Innovation , will waive application of the resolution for a particular article upon written notification by the author, who informs GW of the reason. You can request a waiver by submitting a Waiver Request.

What happens when co-authors disagree on whether or not to opt out?

Each co-author in a jointly written article owns the copyright. Under U.S. copyright law, any co-author has the right to grant a nonexclusive permission to others. It would be up to the co-author to decide whether to opt out of the resolution for a given article to accommodate a co-author.

What if I sign over the rights to a publisher without opting out?

GW’s license is still valid since it was in effect prior to your signing the publisher's agreement. If the publisher refuses to allow the article to be published in light of GW’s resolution, you can discuss the matter with GW Libraries' Scholarly Communications Committee, talk with GW’s Office of General Counsel, or request an opt-out waiver for the publication. We recognize that you have the right to publish with the journals you regard as most advantageous to your field of study. There is no intention for the Open Access Resolution to interfere with your ability to publish your scholarly work.

Even with a waiver, the publisher’s agreement may provide, or the author may be able to negotiate, sufficient rights to allow copies of the article to be made publicly available in the GW repository. The publisher may ask that certain conditions be met, some of which the repository can accommodate (for example, an embargo period during which the article will not be made publicly available). SHERPA/RoMEO is a useful resource for identifying the publisher’s policy for a specific journal.

Legal Aspects

Is GW taking the copyright to my publication?

No. You retain the copyright for your publications. If you assign copyright to a publisher, GW’s resolution is still enforceable since it was already in effect prior to your signing over your copyright.

Who do I contact for any legal issues that arise with making my work openly available?

The GW Libraries' Scholarly Communication Committee is happy to consult with you about copyright issues, but GW’s Office of the General Counsel will provide any legal guidance you may need.

My publication includes images that I received permission to use in my publication on a limited basis. Won't this violate that agreement?

In some cases, you may be able to work with publishers and copyright owners to clear the rights so that the article can legally be deposited as an open access publication. If this is not possible, you can request an opt-out waiver (see "Opting Out").

What Will Be Done with the Works?

What does GW do with the publications?

GW’s institutional repository is managed by GW Libraries, with a commitment to maintain the repository's availability, longevity, and functionality, to the extent technologically feasible. The publications under this resolution will reside in the repository long-term, where they will be backed up and preserved. Contents of the repository are made available to Internet search engines, including Google, Google Scholar, and OAIster.

Can I sell my publication?

This resolution does not prevent you, as the copyright holder, from doing what you wish with the publication, including selling it. However, under GW’s license to the work, it will continue to be available as an open access publication, free to those who access it from GW's institutional repository, unless you obtain an opt-out waiver.

Can other people use my published work?

Others can use the published work within the bounds of the copyright. You must receive attribution for any citations or use of the work and anyone using it must have permission to do so within the copyright guidelines assigned to the work. Failure to do so is a violation of your copyright and is subject to legal action.

Can my articles be used to provide search or other services by companies such as Google?

Yes, the license allows GW to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use the articles to provide search or other services. This is true even if the services generate advertising revenues or the company charges for the services. For instance, the license allows GW to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, so that they can more readily be found and to be used to provide other value-added services. GW could also authorize use of the articles in a commercial service that provides information extracted from the articles, such as bibliographic data or citation lists. Any arrangements would be consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles.

Impact of Resolution on Scholarly Publishing

What about peer review?

Publications go through the normal peer review process prior to their being deposited in the institutional repository. Just because the work is available as an open access publication does not mean it has not gone through peer review. The publisher's standard peer-review mechanism is used and the final post-peer reviewed copy of the manuscript is the version deposited in the institutional repository, unless the publisher prefers that you deposit the copyedited, formatted version as published.

Will I hurt my chances of promotion and tenure by participating in this resolution?

No. Many publishers allow authors to deposit their publications in the author's institutional repository. If a publisher refuses to permit this and publishing with that publisher is critical for a faculty member's tenure consideration, an opt-out waiver can be pursued (see "Opting Out").

How will people cite my work if it is published in more than one place?

Citations should generally be to the authoritative publication. A link to the open access version may also be included. When the publication is deposited into the institutional repository, the authoritative reference and/or identifier is included in the metadata record for that work, so it can be properly cited. Any additional identifiers, citations, or links are also included in the record.

More Information

What is Open Access?

Open access as discussed in relation to this policy refers to free availability of journal articles on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful, non-commercial purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

Why make this an automatic license? Why not just suggest that faculty individually retain a license for open access distribution?

Experience has shown that “opt in” systems have little effect on authors’ behavior. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy was optional. During that period, there was a much lower level of compliance. Experience in many areas has shown that opt-out systems achieve much higher degrees of participation than opt-in systems. Individual faculty benefit from a blanket policy because it makes it possible for GW to simplify procedures and broaden access.

Who will pay for this?

GW already has the technical infrastructure in place to store the articles, in the form of the open access repository, GW ScholarSpace. In addition, the GW Libraries have experience supporting access to faculty research such as technical reports and working papers. Once an implementation plan is developed, it will be possible to assess what other staff or technical support might be needed, if any, and to reassess priorities in light of those needs.

How is this resolution related to the NIH Public Access Policy, and how is that policy working?

The NIH Public Access Policy applies only to NIH funded research. It requires authors to deposit the final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine’s free, full-text archive PubMed Central where they must be accessible within 12 months of publication. The policy makes taxpayer funded research available to taxpayers.

A particular article could be subject to both this policy and the NIH Public Access Policy, if it is peer-reviewed and arose, in whole or in part, from NIH-funded research. If an NIH-funded article is covered by this public access policy, the author could use the GW addendum to publication agreements to cover NIH requirements and accommodate the GW resolution. Even if the author decides to opt out of the GW resolution for an article, the author must reserve rights sufficient to comply with the NIH policy when entering into a publication agreement for the article. Information for GW authors on complying with the NIH Public Access Policy is available in the NIH Public Access Policy Compliance Research Guide.

Why doesn’t the resolution offer a delay before posting the articles, so that the GW version doesn’t appear until after the journal publication?

Different disciplines have very different “half lives” for journal articles, making it very difficult to include a particular time period in an overall resolution. Instead, the embargo and opt-out options exist for authors whose publishers require a delay before posting.