Open access FAQs

Open access at Stanford

Frequently asked questions

23 November 2020



Why open access?

Why is Stanford adopting an open access policy?

Stanford has long been committed to openness in research, as expressed in its Research Policy Handbook.  The goal of openness in research is supported and advanced by implementing an open access policy.  In addition, the policy supports the mandates of many federal and private funding agencies that require open access to results of research they fund. 


What does Stanford’s open access policy provide?

In enacting this policy, faculty grant certain nonexclusive rights over their future scholarly articles to Stanford, authorizing Stanford to make those deposited articles open access.  The policy does not grant ownership to Stanford and includes a waiver option to ensure that authors have control over their work.  

The policy does not prevent faculty authors from placing their manuscript for publication with whatever journal they think best for their work.  Most publishers today have an open access policy (compiled here) which enables authors to deposit their final draft accepted for publication (after peer review) in an institutional database, such as the Stanford Digital Repository.  However, the open access policy does give Stanford a non-exclusive right to distribute research results, including near final and final peer-reviewed versions of articles accepted for publication, which precedes the author granting the publisher a right to publish the work.  

For articles published before this policy, eventually the proposed Office of Scholarly Communication will work with faculty to post their final drafts of these works; Harvard has not received any take-down notices from publishers regarding articles published before the enactment of their policy.


How does the policy benefit Stanford authors?

Primarily, Stanford authors benefit from greater exposure of their publications.  Research has 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. 

In addition the Stanford open access license:

  • Gives authors permission to make their work open access without the difficulty or uncertainty of negotiating with publishers
  • Enables the university to help authors make their works open access
  • Preserves author freedom to publish in the journals of their choice
  • Preserves author freedom to decide for or against open access for each publication
  • Enhances author rights to reuse their work and gives authors more rights over their own work than standard, or even progressive, publishing contracts.


What will Stanford do with articles covered by its license?

Stanford’s primary objective is improving access to its research output.  This its main use of the licensed publications will be making them accessible through the Stanford Digital Repository.  Additional potential uses include: 

  • Reuse by the author. The nonexclusive rights Stanford receives are granted back to the faculty.  This ensures that faculty can use and reuse their own work.
  • Non-commercial distribution. Stanford may allow others to distribute content in the Stanford Digital Repository provided that the articles are not sold for profit.
  • Instructional use. The open-access license grants Stanford 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 coursepack could continue to get permissions from the publisher, typically by paying royalties to the publisher. 
  • Harvesting, indexing, and other services. Consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles, the license allows Stanford 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. Stanford also could authorize use of the articles in a commercial service that provides information extracted from the articles (but not the full text itself), such as bibliographic data or citation lists.
  • Technological innovation. If new means of distributing or making the articles available evolve during the lengthy term of copyright, Stanford would have the ability to use those means to advance the purposes of the open-access policy, provided always that the articles are not sold for a profit.


Policy and license

What types of writings does the policy cover?

Only scholarly articles are covered by the policy.  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 Stanford Digital Repository welcomes the deposit of these items, but such deposit is not required by the policy. 


What version of a scholarly article should an author deposit?

The expected version to be deposited is what is often called the “accepted author manuscript”.  The accepted author manuscript of a work is the version approved by peer review, or the last version the author sends to the publisher after peer review. It does not include unilateral edits made by the journal after peer review, or the journal's look and feel.

If appropriate page charges are paid, or if the publisher gives permission, the final published article, also called the version of record, may also be deposited. 


Does the license apply to articles written before the policy was adopted?

No, the license applies only to articles written after the policy was adopted. 


Does the license apply to articles I write after leaving Stanford?

No, once you leave Stanford, you are no longer subject to the policy.  


Does the license apply to co-authored papers?

Yes. If you are a co-author of an article, you should inform your fellow co-authors about the nonexclusive license that is granted by the policy.  If they object to the license, and cannot be convinced it is beneficial, then remember that you can obtain a waiver for the article.


Are students covered by the policy?

No, the policy applies only to members of the Academic Council.  


Common concerns

Can my articles be used as the basis of derivative works by other authors?

Yes. Stanford may permit you and others to make derivative works based on the articles that fall under the open-access license.  However, Stanford would only exercise this right with permission from the author and in order to advance the aims of the policy.


Is the university acquiring ownership of my writing?

No. Authors still retain ownership and control of the copyright in their writings, subject only to Stanford’s prior, nonexclusive license.


Will Stanford ever sell articles for profit or allow others to do so?

No. Stanford does not have the right to sell for a profit the articles under the license and cannot grant this right to others. The same applies to a coursepack or book containing such articles.


What if a journal publisher refuses to publish my article because of this prior license?

You have several options.  You may:

  • Obtain a waiver of the license and let the publisher know that you have done so
  • Obtain an embargo to delay deposit of the work and let the publisher know you have done so
  • Work to persuade the publisher that it should accept Stanford’s nonexclusive license in order to be able to publish your article
  • Try to seek a different publisher

Many of our peer institutions have had similar policies for some time, and we do not know of a case in which a journal has refused to publish an article merely because of the prior license. This is because the waiver and embargo options offer complete protection to publishers who wish to take advantage of them.


How will Article Publishing Charges (APCs) be handled under the Policy?

The payment of Article Publishing Charges (APC) to a publisher are currently undertaken from each Stanford researcher’s research fund or even personal funds.  With a mandate in place, Stanford can also consider establishing a central fund for support of Author Publishing Charges, which could be raised by requests to donors for the creation of an endowment for that purpose and managed by the Office of Scholarly Communication. A number of institutions have policies for the distribution of APC funds, which will be consulted in formulating Stanford’s policy.  


Depositing articles

Should I include my article in the Stanford Digital Repository even if I have gotten a waiver for it?

You may. If your article cannot be made publicly available because you obtained a waiver of the Stanford license, you can still deposit a “dark copy” copy in the Stanford Digital Repository.  Stanford Libraries will not make the text open access, but will store it for preservation purposes, and will provide access to the metadata or bibliographic information, to facilitate indexing by search engines and public awareness of your article.  


Should I include my article in the Stanford Digital Repository even if the work is not covered by the Stanford license?

You may.  Your right to reuse your own work, and thus to deposit in the Stanford Digital Repository, is limited to the terms of the agreements you signed with your publishers.  However, you may have already made some of your works open access, and your publishing agreement may give you more extensive reuse rights for the accepted author manuscript than for the published version.


Using an author addendum

What is an author addendum?

An author addendum is a proposed modification of a publishing contract. If accepted by the publisher, it modifies the contract, for example, in order to take proper account of the open access license or to allow the author to retain rights that would otherwise have been transferred to the publisher.

One example of an author addendum is available from SPARC.  


How do I use an author addendum?

Complete an appropriate form of addendum, sign and date the form, add a statement to the publisher's agreement making it subject to the addendum, and attach the addendum to the publisher's agreement. 


What if my article has co-authors?

Even if you are not the corresponding author, you may still decide to use the addendum with the publisher's agreement so that the terms of the agreement will not be in conflict with the license granted to Stanford. 


What if the journal publisher refuses to accept my addendum or wants to negotiate it?

You have a number of options.  You may obtain a waiver of the license granted to Stanford.

Alternatively, you can work to persuade the publisher that it should accept Stanford’s non-exclusive license in order to be able to publish your article, or you may seek a different publisher. 


What if a publisher tells me I don't need the addendum because the publisher's agreement already permits immediate posting of the article in an institutional open-access repository?

It may still be a good idea to use the addendum. The nonexclusive license to Stanford enables the university to allow you and others to make various beneficial uses of the article, which may be in conflict with provisions of the publication agreement.  To avoid a conflicting transfer of copyright to the publisher and to protect yourself from breach of contract, you may still want to attach an addendum.


Publisher questions

What versions of articles does Stanford distribute open access?

Stanford typically distributes the accepted author manuscript (AAM) and will only distribute the version of record (VOR) with clear permission from the relevant rightsholder.  When authors submit preprints, Stanford will distribute them as well.


Our standard publication agreement is inconsistent with Stanford’s open-access license. Does this mean we can no longer publish papers by Stanford authors?

No. When an article is subject to the Stanford license, the author may still transfer non-exclusive publication and other rights to a publisher.  In addition, authors may obtain waivers from the Stanford license.


Who should we contact if we believe a paper on a Stanford website violates our copyright?

To send a takedown notice, please contact Stanford’s DMCA agent. This is the course to take whether the paper is in the Stanford Digital Repository or on a different Stanford site, such as the website of a faculty member, student, department, or lab.