Open access policy implemented

Committee working with researchers to make work available in journals, online repository

Earlier this year, faculty elected to make KU the first public university in the United States to adopt an open access policy regarding faculty research published in peer-review journals. Now work is under way to implement the policy and let faculty know exactly what it means and how it works.

The policy, approved by Faculty Senate on April 30, says faculty who publish research in a peer-reviewed journal, should attempt to retain enough of their copyrights to make the research available in an open access platform. KU ScholarWorks, a service offered through KU Libraries, is the designated mechanism.

A universitywide committee developed the policy. A similar group of faculty members, administrators, vice provosts, deans, and department chairs is now spearheading the implementation. The group has announced an open meeting to be held for anyone with questions about the policy at 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Jayhawk Room in the Kansas Union. The committee has also met with departments and held brown bag lunches to shed light on the policy and answer questions about it.

“The policy doesn’t at all stop faculty from choosing their own journal and publisher,” said Ada Emmett, associate librarian for scholarly communication and chair of the implementation task force. “KU has long had to buy back access to scholarship from publishers in which its own faculty had published, and at a very high cost, through journal subscriptions, which cost KU more than $4 million per year.”

The advantage of the open access policy is the availability to the scholarship it provides to people around the world and the increased opportunity for faculty’s work to be seen and cited. When an article is placed in KU ScholarWorks, it can be accessed by anyone worldwide and can be found through Internet keyword searches. The policy assists and encourages faculty authors to retain more of the rights to their intellectual property. When an article is accepted for publication, authors are usually required to sign an agreement for publication that gives the publisher complete ownership of the work.

“The policy is not meant to pressure faculty to change their publishing habits but instead to help them to hold on to more of their rights so that they can share the work widely, including in their teaching work.” Emmett said of the policy.

Town Peterson, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and a member of both the development and implementation committees, said he previously had been happy to have his work published at all and didn’t pay close enough attention to the copyright agreements, “giving away sizeable chunks of my own rights.”

“The policy says ‘let’s work as a community to understand what rights we have,’” Peterson said.

The policy, patterned after similar plans at universities such as Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and adapted to KU’s needs, allows the university and authors to work with publishers to find a satisfactory balance. Faculty members are encouraged to add addenda to their publishing agreements stating the article will also be made available through KU ScholarWorks. The Web site lists publishers who are receptive to open access. If a publisher refuses to agree to an addendum, faculty members can opt out of providing KU with permission to serve a copy of the publication.

The policy has several benefits for faculty authors, committee members said. KU scholarship will be available to more people across the world — not only to those fortunate enough to be paid subscribers. Through KU ScholarWorks, authors can also track how many people access their work and from where in the world they are accessing it.

Marc L. Greenberg, professor and chair of Slavic languages and literatures and a member of the implementation committee, said he has seen the benefits of open access. He co-founded a journal dedicated to the study of Slovene linguistics in the 1990s. With the agreement of the publisher, the Slovene Academy of Sciences, he began placing the journal on KU ScholarWorks to archive previous issues. The journal has recently transitioned to simultaneous print and online publication.

“It maximizes world-wide readership,” Greenberg said of open access. “We’re frankly astounded by the readership we’re getting, it maximizes our impact exponentially.”

Some have expressed concern that the policy would add to faculty workload. Peterson said adding his published papers to KU ScholarWorks has not added more than 15 minutes of work per article. A group of “early adopters” departments has been formed to test procedures under development for implementing the policy, and to suggest ways the process can be improved.

Faculty are asked to submit their published articles to KU ScholarWorks or the responsible unit within 30 days of publication in a refereed journal. If they are unable to provide a copy of the article for open serving, they would submit the bibliographic information to their paper, and a link to the publisher’s site, for inclusion in KU ScholarWorks. Any faculty members with questions about the process can contact Ada Emmett at or 864-8831.

As the first public institution with an open access policy, KU faculty are at the forefront of a burgeoning movement.

“We have a lot of university presidents and provosts who are watching KU,” said Lorraine Haricombe, dean of libraries. “They’re inquiring about the benefits, the scholarship and how it affects the publishing process. We feel expanding the reach of KU research is a great way to elevate the university’s research profile.”

More information on the open access policy is available online.

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