Astrid Bovell on October 13th, 2011
Ahhh Open Access. Like the wilderness of a forest – beautiful, available to anyone to explore but like all things out there in the open, there are always a few things to watch out for.
Open Access can be a wonderful way of disseminating your research to a wide audience, allowing anyone to further their knowledge by reading your work. You may have even read Brooke’s recent good news about some galleries opening up images of their collection for all to use. But Open Access – like any dark forest has things you need to look out for – tree stumps that may trip you up, or wild beasts lurking in dark corners baring their teeth!
So, just like a walk in the woods, it’s important to prepare and think carefully about the implications of going out there… so let’s think carefully about making something available for open access:
1) Do you own it?
If you don’t own all the copyright in the material you’re making available, you may be infringing someone’s else copyright (and no one likes dealing with angry copyright owners, who can bear a striking resemblance to a monster in the forest gnashing it’s teeth!). If you have already published your research, you may have granted copyright or an exclusive licence to the publisher. In which case, the material can only be made available on open access if the publisher allows. Many publishers have a policy for authors to self archive their work in an institutional repository, such as UMER. So it’s important to read any publishing agreements you sign or check publishing policies if you want to make your work available on open access.
Be careful about images or any other material that you may have included if was created by other people. In most cases, you need to get their permission. We’ve spoken about when you need permission and when you don’t in previous posts, but you can also find out more from our Using Copyright Material webpage.
If you share copyright with co-authors, you will need to make sure they are happy for it to be made available on open access. Funding and research agreements may also impact on what can be made available on open access, although increasingly these agreements are supportive of open access.
- From The Project Gutenberg eBook, English Fairy Tales, by Flora Annie Steel, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
2) Orphaned works
You may have heard a lot of talk about Orphaned Works recently. If you’ve read Helen’s post, you’ll understand that orphaned works are tricky. Making orphaned works available for open access is a huge risk. Just because you find 3 bowls of steaming porridge in the forest and can’t locate the owners, it doesn’t mean you can eat them and get away with it. The same applies with copyright material just because you can’t locate the copyright owner, you don’t have the right to make the work available for open access. Again you could find yourself facing action if the copyright owner (or 3 angry bears 😉 ) becomes aware of what you’ve done.
3) Think about the future.
It’s important to think about the future, Hansel and Gretel had the foresight that it might be hard to get out of the forest so they left breadcrumbs. You’ll need to have a bit more foresight and think about whether you should set your work free in the open access forest at all! If you intend to publish with a commercial publisher one day, you may not want to make your material open access before publishing it because some publishers want the exclusive publication rights to your work. If you’ve already published your work via open access, then you can’t give the publisher the exclusive right they’re after and they may not want to publish your work. So talk to people in your discipline about what the regular publishing practice is. Research the publishers in your field and find out whether they’re happy to publish material that’s previously been made available for open access before you put it out there.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought, so that at least if you go out in the woods today you won’t be in for a surprise, and you’ll have something to contribute to that picnic!