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Open Access

A guide to open access publishing

Understanding Green Open Access

Green open access involves making work, often a version of a published article, openly available through a repository. A variety of platforms are available, including disciplinary repositories (e.g.ArXivPubMed Central) and institutional repositories hosted by a university or organization. The benefit of green open access is that scholars can make any of their works available, not just those published in open access journals, avoiding the potential costs of doing so. Challenges associated with green open access involve the ability of the author to retain the necessary copyright permissions to share their work, publisher restrictions regarding the version of the article (pre-print or post-print) that can be shared, and the perpetuation of traditional publishing models. 

Subject Repositories

Discipline or subject repositories are online archives designed to preserve, organize, and disseminate research either centered on a single discipline (e.g biology or physics) or multi-disciplinary (e.g. life sciences or humanities). Material is deposited by researchers throughout the world to be freely accessible with limited restrictions. Some examples of subject repositories include:


Institutional Repository - Belmont Digital Repository

Institutional repositories are digital collections managed by a university or research organization. Institutional repositories serve a variety of valuable roles, including supporting open access through collecting and sharing an institution's scholarly output. In addition to hosting student work, and various special collections, the Belmont Digital Repository supports open access and the university's scholars, allowing for the discovery of the creative and scholarly output of Belmont.

As an example, the College of Law faculty have utilized the Belmont Digital Repository to host the Law Faculty Scholarship

*If your college or department would like to create a similar collection, please contact: 

Retaining Your Rights

For authors to archive their work in a repository they must retain the appropriate copyright permissions. Authors publishing in traditional journals often relinquish their rights to control the dissemination of and access to their work. Many publishers already have established policies permitting authors to archive their work as a part of their standard publishing agreement. Authors may consult SHERPA/RoMEO to determine a publisher's standard policy for self-archiving, and if you are unsure, please consult your liaison librarian. 

Copyright Transfer Agreements

When publishing an article, you should scrutinize the copyright transfer agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights that will allow you to use and share your work. Transferring your copyright to the publisher may prevent or limit your ability to: 

  • Self-archive your work in a repository
  • Distribute your work to friends and colleagues
  • Use your work in class or conferences without permission 
  • Republish your work

Author Addendums

You don't have to transfer your rights to get published! You can negotiate with the publisher to retain certain rights with an author addendum. Learn more:

SPARC Author Rights

SPARC Author Addendum

Understanding Manuscript Versions

Publishers often make distinctions between three primary versions of a manuscript when detailing the archive or deposit rights retained by authors: the pre-print, the post-print and the publishers version.

Pre-print – A pre-print is the original version of the manuscript as it is submitted to a journal. While the authors may have sought help from their colleagues in selecting data analysis techniques, improving manuscript clarity, and correcting grammar, the pre-print has not been through a process of peer review. It typically looks like a term paper – a double spaced .doc file with minimal formatting.

Post-print – A post-print is a document that has been through the peer review process and incorporated reviewers comments. It is the final version of the paper before it is sent off the the journal for publication. It may be missing a final copyedit (if the journal still does that) and won’t be formatted to look like the journal. It still looks like the double spaced .doc file. Sometimes, the term “pre-print” is used interchangeably with “post-print,” but when it comes to permissions issues, it is important to clarify which version of a manuscript is being discussed.

Publishers version/PDF – This is the version of record that is published on the publishers website. It will look quite spiffy, having been professionally typeset by the publisher. Library databases will link to this version of the paper.

Generally speaking, publishers are more likely to be okay with authors posting copies of pre-print versus other manuscript versions. But each journal is different, and authors need to be aware of what they can do. The copyright transfer agreement is the best place to find this information.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that promotes the sharing of knowledge by providing creative commons licenses, a free, standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works.

Publishers may include a creative commons license as part of the copyright transfer agreement, and authors may even be able to choose the CC license in some cases. 

Creative commons licenses explained

From Technology Enhanced Learning Blog