COSIAC Briefing Paper Friday, 30 November 2012

Briefing paper: Increasing access to scholarly outputs


There has been considerable discussion of scholarly publishing in the media recently. Reports have covered the NHMRC mandate to make results open access, the Elsevier boycott and the proposed Research Works Act in the US. This paper aims to briefly explain some of the broader issues as well as these topics in particular.


The process of scholarly communication

The scholarly communication system is fundamental to the pursuit of research. Researchers write up the results of their work and submit papers to journals or conferences. These are assessed by editors and sent out for peer review, before being amended by the author(s) and finally published.

The tasks of peer review and editing are considered to be part of the scholarly process and are undertaken by researchers without recognition or payment. 

What is open access?

While journals are now online, they are only available to people who pay a subscription or who are members of an institution who pays a subscription. Put simply open access uses digital technology to make research findings widely available. Researchers can make their work open access by one of two ways.

Researchers can deposit a version of their work into a subject based repository such as, SSRN or RePEc, or an institutional repository. Every university in Australia and New Zealand has a repository for this purpose. This is referred to as ‘green’ open access publishing. 

Alternatively researchers can publish in an open access journal such as PLoS One. This is referred to as ‘gold’ open access and may incur an article processing fee. Researchers may wish to consider including these fees in any grant proposals. Note that the 2012 ARC Discovery Grant funding rules allow 2% of the grant to be used for this purpose. Researchers should check in advance to see what their institution’s policy is on the payment of article processing fees.


Doesn’t open access contravene copyright?

Generally the copyright of a paper is held by the author or the author’s institution prior to publication. The publisher’s agreement the author signs at the time of publication usually transfers the copyright of the work to the publisher. This then restricts use of the published work.

While putting the published version of a work into a repository (or onto Mendeley or will contravene most publishers’ agreements, the majority of publishers allow an earlier version of a paper to be deposited into a repository. The version most researchers make available is the accepted version – the final peer reviewed and corrected paper. This is sometimes called a post print. The Sherpa/RoMEO website ( lists the policies for most publishers.


Alternatives to copyright

The Creative Commons ( is a set of internationally accepted licences which helps an organisation, author (or content) to share their work and indicate how they wish their work to be used. In New Zealand the government has adopted Creative Commons (see NZGOAL

Alternatively there is an option for authors to amend their publisher’s agreement with an author addenda. There are online tools to generate these automatically (

Benefits of open access

The pursuit of research is to increase global knowledge. Disseminating work through open access channels means that researchers in less resourced institutions, practitioners in the field and the general public can share findings. The taxpayer supports the research, the writing up of results, and the peer review and editing process. Open access allows these taxpayers to see these findings without having to pay to view.

Concerns about open access

Some researchers express concern about plagiarism, particularly in terms of making theses available. However, while plagiarism occurs all the time, making work available in a repository clearly identifies the author as the owner of the work.

Publishers clearly have concerns that making work open access could affect subscriptions to their journals and threaten their viability. However, to date there is scant evidence that this will happen. The physics community has been making their work available through for over 20 years and this has not caused physics journals to fold.


How universities can support open access

Universities can support the sharing of their researchers by:

  • Ensuring the university has a robust open access policy
  • Considering an open access mandate
  • Educating researchers on the benefits of open access
  • Raising awareness of scholarly communication issues amongst the academic and library staff
  • Encouraging  authors to use Creative Commons licenses or author addenda
More information

Your university library is responsible for the management of scholarly publications. If you have further questions, contact your Librarian.


Prepared February 2012 on behalf of COSIAC by Dr Danny Kingsley, ANU & Penny Carnaby, Lincoln University


Recent events in the media

The Research Works Act & FRPAA

The Research Works Act ( introduced in December 2011 would make it illegal for government funders to require that funded research findings be made open access. This generated a storm of protest across the world. On 27 February Elsevier withdrew their support for the bill


In response to the RWA the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) ( ) was presented in February 2012 which would make it mandatory that research funded by larger US Government agencies be publicly available via the Internet.


Elsevier boycott

News that the Congress people who put forward the Research Works Act had both accepted donations from Elsevier ( ) prompted a mathematician to write a blog which led to an online boycott stating the signatories would no longer write for, edit or peer review for Elsevier journals. Thousands of researchers have added their names.


NHMRC mandate

On 22 February the NHMRC announced that as of July 2012, publications resulting from NHMRC funded research must be placed in an institutional repository within 12 months of publication



Continually updated collection of blog posts, articles, comments on the Research Works Act

Summary of the recent events 'Prime Time for Public Action'

Librarians, Open Access Advocates ‘Vehemently Oppose’ Research Works Act

FRPAA Frequently Asked Questions (SPARC)

Information about how Creative Commons can be used in the New Zealand context