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Equitable Access Policy FAQ

As of August 2021, a draft of the "Equitable Access to Scholarly Articles Authored by University Faculty" policy is under review.

What is the "Equitable Access" Policy and why does it matter?

The overarching goals of the Equitable Access Policy are to: 1.) remove price and permission barriers to a large subset of UMD’s knowledge for those who cannot afford the often-exorbitant subscription fees of for-profit publishers; 2.) help UMD faculty members comply with open access mandates from research funders; and 3.) enhance faculty authors’ ability to retain their rights.

We believe equitable access to knowledge is a moral imperative and is in alignment with our land-grant mission as a public university. This policy relies on the unified action of the campus, as a body, to enable individual faculty to distribute their scholarly writings freely. Many other grant-funding organizations, including private foundations and government agencies, have a vested interest in making research outputs openly available and are independently supporting these types of efforts as well.

This new policy will promote social and economic justice, will increase discoverability and use of UMD’s research, and will help make scholarly communication more sustainable, because UMD will have other means with which to share scholarly work with other researchers and the general public. We can use this policy and movement to create more pressure on what has become primarily a monopolistic, for-profit scholarly publishing market.

The “Equitable Access” policy has two basic provisions. First, faculty members commit to deposit a certain version of their future scholarly articles into DRUM, the University of Maryland’s institutional repository. Second, faculty members grant certain nonexclusive rights over their future scholarly articles to the University of Maryland, authorizing it to make their deposited articles open access. This grant of nonexclusive rights is not equivalent to a grant of ownership. It includes waiver and embargo options to enhance author freedom and control over their work. We call this grant of nonexclusive rights the UMD Equitable Access License.

The policy does not require authors to submit new scholarly articles to any particular type of journals, such as open-access journals. Instead, the policy deliberately allows authors to submit new work to the journals of their choice.

First, experience has shown that mere encouragement has little effect. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy was optional. During that period, there was only a 4% level of compliance. During the same period, studies showed that the low level of compliance was not due to opposition so much as preoccupation, busyness, and forgetfulness.

Second, experience in many areas has shown that opt-out systems achieve much higher degrees of participation than opt-in systems, even while remaining noncoercive.

Third, by making campus-wide policies, individual faculty benefit from their membership in the policy-making group. The university can work with publishers on behalf of the faculty to simplify procedures and broaden access. Without a policy covering many authors, we could not take full advantage of the benefit of unified action.

This policy only covers benefits-eligible faculty members. However, other faculty members and non-faculty scholars and researchers may create a similar license for their own work through the UMD’s voluntary Individual Equitable Access License

Under the policy, UMD’s Equitable Access License: 

  • Gives authors the ability to make their work openly accessible without the difficulty or uncertainty of negotiating with publishers;
  • Enables the university to help authors make their works open access;
  • Preserves authors’ freedom to publish in the journals of their choice;
  • Preserves authors’ freedom to decide for or against open access for each publication; 
  • Enhances authors’ rights to reuse their work for research and teaching; 
  • Gives authors more rights over their own work than standard, or even progressive, publishing contracts;
  • Increases readership and citation of research;
  • Makes it easier for instructors to assign your work to their students; 
  • Keeps publicly funded research in public hands; and
  • Helps to control costs for libraries and readers.

The chief benefit of the Equitable Access License is the way it fosters open access itself. Research has repeatedly shown that articles that are free online are cited more often than articles that are not free online, and this trend is increasing over time. This phenomenon is often called the open-access citation or impact advantage.

Here are some examples:

  • Availability in DRUM. The UMD Libraries manages an open-access repository called DRUM (https://drum.lib.umd.edu/) to distribute the scholarly articles deposited by UMD researchers.
  • Reuse by the author. When UMD receives the grant of nonexclusive rights from faculty, it grants the same rights back to the faculty. The result is that faculty receive more rights from the policy, to use and reuse their own work, than they would likely receive under their publishing contracts.
  • Non-commercial distribution. Through the transferability provision, UMD may further allow others to distribute content in DRUM, provided that the articles are not sold for profit. For instance, faculty at other institutions could be given permission to make copies for free distribution directly to their students.
  • Instructional purposes. The UMD equitable-access license grants UMD the right to license articles for free use in a course pack, so long as the course pack is not sold for profit. Alternatively, those seeking to include articles in a course pack could continue to get permissions from the publisher, typically by paying royalties to the publisher. To take another example, UMD could also authorize others to make articles available online (for example, on a course website or another repository), provided that these were not sold for a profit.
  • Harvesting, indexing, and other services. Consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles, the license allows UMD to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use the articles to provide search or other services, so long as the articles are not being sold for a profit. For instance, the license allows UMD to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, and to be used to provide other value-added services that don't involve selling the articles themselves for a profit. 

Policy and License Basics

The Equitable Access Policy only covers peer-reviewed scholarly articles. We focus on scholarly articles because, in the language of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, these are the primary works that scholars publish "for the sake of inquiry and knowledge" and "give to the world without expectation of payment." Scholarly articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings.

While DRUM, the UMD’s repository, welcomes scholarly works other than articles, this policy only covers articles. Among the works outside the category of scholarly articles are books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, and lecture videos.

The voluntary Individual Equitable Access License is also limited to scholarly articles.

No. The policy will not apply to any articles that were completed before the policy was enacted, nor to any articles for which you entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy was adopted. If you are a non-faculty author, you are not subject to this policy. However, if you sign the voluntary Individual Equitable Access License, then it too will not apply to articles written before you signed the license.

No. Once you are no longer affiliated with the University of Maryland, College Park, any articles you write will not be subject to this policy and will not be licensed to UMD. Likewise, the voluntary Individual Equitable Access License only applies as long as the author is affiliated with UMD.

Yes. If you are a co-author of an article, you should inform your co-authors about the nonexclusive license that you have granted UMD under this policy (or the voluntary Individual Equitable Access License), and if your co-authors cannot be convinced this is beneficial, then you can obtain a waiver for the article.

Each joint author of an article holds copyright in the article and, individually, has the authority to grant UMD a nonexclusive license. However, one waiver from one author is sufficient to waive the license to UMD.

Please contact the Libraries’ Open Scholarship Team (lib-open-scholarship@umd.edu) with any questions you may have about seeking a waiver for a co-authored paper.

You have a number of options. You may:

  • Obtain a waiver of the license and let the publisher know that you have done so; or
  • Obtain an embargo to delay deposit of the work in DRUM and let the publisher know you have done so; or
  • Work to persuade the publisher that it should accept UMD’s nonexclusive license in order to be able to publish your article; or finally,
  • Try to seek a different publisher. The Libraries’ Open Scholarship Team would be happy to help in the process of working with publishers or picking an option that works best for you.

Many institutions using this type of policy have not heard of a single case in which a journal has refused to publish an article merely because of the prior license to UMD. This is because the waiver and embargo options offer complete protection to publishers who wish to take advantage of them.

This new policy builds upon the UMD Intellectual Property policy, because it relies on faculty authors continuing to retain the copyright for their own works. One minor change will have to be incorporated into the IP policy, to add the Equitable Access License into the section on “Traditional Scholarly Works.” Again, though, this policy enacts a non-exclusive license, not a transfer of rights, which means that faculty members still retain the copyright for their works.

No. This policy is based on sharing your Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM or post-print) in an open repository such as UMD’s DRUM. Most journals do not require payment of a fee to share your accepted manuscript. Paying an APC is generally associated with making the published version of the article open access.

You can use the Sherpa Romeo database to check a particular journal's default rules on sharing articles via repositories. If the default rules do not permit you to share your paper, you can modify your contract before signing it by using an author’s addendum or you can get a waiver. 

If you have questions about the open access policy or the author’s addendum, please contact the Libraries' Open Scholarship Team.

Scholarly Articles and Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs)

The policy asks faculty members to submit an electronic version, usually a PDF, of their final, peer-reviewed Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) for inclusion in DRUM. This is the version that we can make accessible and preserve without any concerns about copyright and licensing. When we enact this policy at UMD, faculty members will have persistent links to their preserved, open-access articles, and their work will become more accessible because their articles will be crawled by and findable through major search engines.

The policy asks authors to deposit the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM), which includes any changes made after peer-review and has been accepted for publication by the journal. It does not include unilateral edits made by the journal after peer review, or changes that relate to the journal's look and feel. Documents that have been typeset or copyedited by the publisher (such as proofs or the final published version) are not AAMs, but if you wrote your article in a publisher-supplied template then that is acceptable. In a few cases we will deposit the published version, also called the Version of Record (VOR). For example, we will deposit this version when UMD or the author has paid an Article Processing Charge for that article, or when the publisher gives permission to deposit that version. If you're not certain about whether we could deposit the VOR in a given case, please contact the Libraries’ Open Scholarship Team

When a paper is revised by the publisher after the peer review stage, the author does not have the rights to those publisher-made changes. But the VOR is almost always the same in regard to the meaningful content as the AAM, because that content has been peer-reviewed. In most cases, the AAM suffices for scholarly purposes, because it’s the peer-reviewed version of the text. Even for those who would prefer access to the VOR, if they are barred from access due to permission and price barriers, access to the AAM is far better than nothing. Presumably, the peer-review process is supposed to catch all substantive issues and edits, in any case. One 2018 study by Kelin et al, “Comparing published scientific journal articles to their pre-print versions” (International Journal on Digital Libraries, 2018), found that “the text contents of the scientific papers generally changed very little from their pre-print to final published versions.”

Yes, for many major funding agencies this type of access in a repository explicitly meets their open-access requirements, but the answer to this question ultimately depends upon whether the funding agency itself specifies otherwise or specifies a particular repository, such as PubMed Central for the NIH Public Access Policy.

Submission of work into DRUM and Other Repositories

This is an unavoidable concern because the AAMs will have to be sent to the UMD Libraries by the faculty members themselves. It is now common for publishers to use online platforms for submitting manuscripts for the peer review process and final editing, and at times, these platforms do not make it easy for the authors to obtain their own AAMs. In these cases, faculty members may request the AAMs from publishers. However, if this is perceived as too much of a burden, it may be helpful to note that the policy does not provide for any penalties for non-deposit; it relies on faculty members making a commitment to deposit their articles.

In the future, we hope to be able to harvest the papers that authors may upload to Digital Measures and deposit them in DRUM programmatically, eliminating the need for faculty to upload their articles more than once. But short of that for now, we will work on other techniques, such as CV-scraping services, library-assisted uploading of AAMs, etc., to minimize faculty burden related to this policy going forward.

Links to the VOR can easily be included in the DRUM record. This is a common practice and often a requirement of the journal. Once an article has been deposited in DRUM, faculty members are not able to modify a record, but the Libraries will commit resources to add or change these links and provide CV-scraping services, if the policy is approved.

Yes, it is possible to embargo or restrict access to documents in DRUM for a finite period of time but faculty members must contact the Libraries to set the end date. Restrictions are automatically removed at the end of the embargo period.

We think the first priority is to make sure the research is accessible in an open, equitable manner, and so we applaud the use of other trusted repositories in this way. We may, however, work in collaboration to try to automatically harvest these items in the future; we want to be sure that the items are preserved and discoverable through our systems as well.

The UMD Libraries will take steps to ensure that AAMs are accessible. We will perform post-deposit quality checks and will also provide advice and training to faculty members who wish to learn about accessibility related to their articles.

Much of your work — for example, anything authored before the date this policy is approved, or before you signed the voluntary Individual Equitable Access License — is not covered by this policy. In these cases, your right to reuse your own work is limited to the terms of the agreements you signed with your publishers. In most cases, those publishing agreements give you more extensive reuse rights for the Author Accepted Manuscript than for the published version or Version of Record.

Therefore, even when you are not allowed to distribute the published version, you may be able to make your AAM available for download in DRUM without violating the agreement with your publisher. Consult with the Libraries’ Open Scholarship Team and let us explore this with you.

Yes, sharing of PubMed links and other reliable links can be added to a DRUM record.

Waivers, Embargoes, and Opting into the Policy

The waiver option is always available in these types of cases and does not rely on any evaluative process or approval process. Faculty members would be asked to complete a simple online form and the waiver would be automatically granted. Fortunately, over time, many publishers have moved to allow posting of peer-reviewed AAMs into repositories before publication. PACT’s proposed policy does not require preprints. It asks for deposit of the Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM), the final, peer-reviewed version before the publishers adds typesetting, layout, and pagination. This issue has not been a problem at Harvard, MIT, Penn State, and other institutions employing a similar model.

Current graduate students, fellows, non-faculty researchers, and faculty members not covered by this policy may create a similar license for themselves through the voluntary Individual Equitable Access License.

Impact of the Policy on Metrics, Publishing, etc.

The policy actually increases visibility and accessibility. High-profile journals hide research publications behind paywalls that hinder access by researchers, students, institutions, and the general public who cannot afford to subscribe or license their content. Repositories like DRUM are enhanced with metadata, crawled by Google and other major search engines, and designed to increase the visibility, reputation, and prestige of the institution. Depositing an article in DRUM, per the policy, is in addition to, not instead of, publication in a journal.

Discovery of UMD's scholarly content is available through Google Scholar, but this content is also discoverable in virtually all other commercial search engines like Yahoo and Bing as well as niche search engines like DuckDuckGo and Qwant. DRUM and other OA content is discoverable through open-access indexing services such as CORE (core.ac.uk) and BASE (base-search.net). DRUM data is also harvested by Unpaywall, which makes it available for integration with WorldCat.org and other search interfaces. Unpaywall also offers a browser extension to make discovery of OA versions of articles easy for researchers. Additional development and indexing opportunities for discovery and access to OA articles exist in the future.

A faculty member in this situation might want to choose a hybrid alternative, meaning to publish their article in the traditional, toll access way and then deposit their AAM into DRUM without paying the extra fee. The Libraries also offer an Open Access Publishing Fund that covers 50% of the article processing charges for UMD authors publishing in most open access journals.

If a faculty member is using this type of practice now, the policy is supportive and facilitates this. We plan to one day harvest UMD’s articles that are available in BioMed Central and PubMed, but in the meantime, we don’t see a need to prioritize uploading the freely-available articles again into DRUM.

Major publishers, including ACM, Elsevier, IEEE, SAGE, SpringerNature, and Wiley, have worked for several years with institutions like Harvard and MIT who employ a similar model, as well as European institutions following Plan S. To this point, it’s clear that publishers realize taking a stance like this would be a nonstarter for most publicly funded institutions.

ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is proposing a new “ACM OPEN” pricing model that many institutions have already said is unsustainable. UMD’s price under this model would increase by a factor of 5 or more in order to make ACM’s content open. We are in discussion with ACM. This policy offers a path for UMD authors to make their content open without relying on exorbitant Article Processing Charges (APCs).

As the author of a work, you are the copyright holder unless and until you transfer the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement. Options available to authors when presented with a publisher’s agreement include 1) transfer all your rights to the publisher, 2) transfer the copyright to the publisher but retain certain rights, or 3) retain all your rights and license the rights to the publisher. 

No matter which option you choose, it is important to read the agreement carefully. Authors can make changes to any agreement in order to retain certain rights. The Creative Commons Scholars Copyright Addendum Engine allows authors to retain the necessary rights to reuse their research. Remember that transferring copyright does not have to be all or nothing and publisher agreements are negotiable.
 

Most of the steps in the traditional process would occur as usual, but when you are at a stage in the process after peer-review but not after significant editorial or publisher-related changes are made, then you would save or request the version that we are calling “AAM.” If it’s open access, then you as the author could put the actual PDF into the repository. If it’s a post-print AAM, you could then safely deposit this into DRUM, per our policy. Most of the steps in the traditional process would occur as usual, but when you are at a stage in the process after peer-review but not after significant editorial or publisher-related changes are made, then you would save or request the version that we are calling “AAM.” If it’s open access, then you as the author could put the actual PDF into the repository. If it’s a post-print AAM, you could then safely deposit this into DRUM, per our policy.

We encourage faculty members to include the publisher-based DOIs associated with Versions of Record when they submit their AAMs. The publisher-based DOIs may be added to the DRUM record and can be inserted into the AAM itself. Most researchers would prefer to cite the VOR, rather than cite other versions, so we think this concern about impact factors can and will be avoided if these steps are taken. In regard to discoverability, Google Scholar, for example, finds articles across PubMed, ResearchGate, and Harvard's post-print server, and groups duplicate versions together, finding the same article with different DOIs.

This policy is a rights-retention policy for faculty authors, not something that takes away rights and gives them to the university. This policy gives authors more rights over their own work than they get from conventional or even progressive publishing contracts, and if they still don’t agree, they can obtain waivers with no questions asked. For these reasons, we don’t anticipate that this policy will be a concern for most contractual faculty.

If many major universities move to this type of policy, the long-term impact will be to lower the cost of academic publishing across the board to more reasonable levels. The largest publishers of scientific and scholarly research realize profits greater than Apple, Microsoft, Google, JPMorgan Chase, and other international technology companies and financial institutions. Reducing the cost of journals would make funds available for monographs, media, digitized primary sources, and other content for the University of Maryland’s programs and research.  An institution's policy regarding authors' rights should have no impact on the decisions of publishers who claim to produce peer-reviewed literature.

Some scholarly societies have turned over production and distribution of their publications to large commercial publishers. In turn, these publishers have profited considerably from their takeover of scholarly society publishing. Publishers pass on subscription fees, APCs, and other costs to the researchers and institutions that make up societies' memberships. The current funding model for many of these publications, therefore, does little more than shuffle costs and fees among researchers, their societies, and their institutions. This is neither efficient nor sustainable. Academic institutions, publishers, and societies must work together to create new funding models that are fair and sustainable for all stakeholders.  

See Naim K, Brundy C, Samberg RG. “Collaborative transition to open access publishing by scholarly societies.” Mol Biol Cell. 2021 Feb 15;32(4):311-313. doi: 10.1091/mbc.E20-03-0178. PMID: 33587648; PMCID: PMC8098815; and “Transitioning Society Publications to Open Access” (2019, August 13). Bridging learned society publishing and open access: An international collaboration and webinar series. Available at: https://tspoa.org/2019/07/30/254/
 

Many publishers have now accepted green open access and have issued policies of their own that explicitly support self-archiving of peer-reviewed Author Accepted Manuscripts (AAMs). For example, under SAGE's Green Open Access policy, the "accepted version of the article may be posted in the author's institutional repository and reuse is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses." Some publishers also accept sharing of the published articles (version of record) after a formal embargo period. For example, Wiley's self-archiving policy states: "Authors of articles published in Wiley journals are permitted to self-archive the submitted (preprint) version of the article at any time, and may self-archive the accepted (peer-reviewed) version after an embargo period." Having said this, however, the default license in our Equitable Access policy supersedes publishers' policies. Once the UMD policy is in place, authors can post their AAMs in DRUM without delay.

There are risks involved when knowledge is openly shared, but the benefits and ethical reasons for sharing knowledge equitably outweigh these risks in our view. Our proposed policy mitigates some of these risks as well, through the sharing of work that has already undergone scrutiny through peer review. We believe that greater misinformation can occur when science and the outputs of scholarly research are kept locked behind paywalls or are otherwise inaccessible. Continuing to block content dissemination and keep processes in the dark are not the solutions to these troubling problems. Instead, more transparency and openness in the research community, e.g., through open science, open peer review, etc., could reveal flaws and problematic research faster than before. The UMD community should always look for ways to make research and scientific communication more trustworthy and reliable. Despite examples of retractions and scandals, the movement toward openness and transparency is part of making science better and more trustworthy, which is necessary to increase the general public's trust in our work.

Note:  Portions of this FAQ have been adapted with permission from the Harvard University FAQ on Open Access Policies.