Rights help propel ‘greener’ publishing

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles exploring open access in scholarly communications.

You’re a committed eco-citizen. Your life is green from top to bottom—from the solar panels on your roof to the native plants in your yard. But what about your publisher? Is it green, too?SPA731 Poster.indd

“Green” publishers are those that share their content far and wide without fetter, according to SHERPA RoMEO, a Web site that outlines journal publisher policies. Green publishers let authors put their articles into an electronic archive, post them on a personal Web site, or hand them out to students before and after peer review and formal publication.

Of the 600 publishers SHERPA RoMEO has rated, 60 percent allow limited self-archiving. Only 29 percent, however, qualify as truly “green.” Others are color-coded as blue, yellow and white, depending on the scope of openness.

Traversing the legalistic landscape of academic publishing can be dodgy. So OSU librarians have developed a workshop for OSU researchers who want to ensure broader electronic access to their scholarly writing. The workshop, called “Rights Well,” trains faculty and graduate students to retain more of their rights when negotiating contracts with academic publishers. Participants are surprised to learn that many so-called “copyright transfer agreements” can be finessed before signing.

“Author rights are one of the most overlooked aspects of publishing agreements,” said Andrea Wirth, OSU’s Geosciences and Environmental Sciences Librarian. “The workshop shows people how to really scrutinize the wording.”

Questions authors should ask themselves include: How might I want to reuse this article? Do I want to distribute it to students? What about depositing it in OSU’s electronic Scholars Archive, or putting it in a specialized archive within my discipline? Do I want to post it on my departmental Web site? How about my personal Web page? Do I want to link the article to my online vita? Maybe I’ll want to reuse the article as a book chapter down the road.

If an author answers yes to any or all of these questions, he or she has a couple of options: find a green publisher or work with a less-than-green publisher to get a greener contract.

Andrea Wirth

Andrea Wirth

“Some publishers are very specific about the types of repositories where authors can place their work,” said Wirth. “For example, some allow submission to repositories—that is, institutional archives like OSU’s Scholars Archive, or to disciplinary archives for specific fields of study. You have to read the contract very, very carefully to make sure you don’t get surprised later.”

If a contract looks too restrictive, authors have options. An excellent tool is the SPARC Author Addendum, Wirth explains in the workshop.Developed by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an international organization dedicated to open access, the addendum gives authors a way to expand their contractual rights.

When Wirth recently ran into a contract problem herself, she used the addendum to good effect. Under initial contract wording for the journal Collection Management, she would have been unable to submit her article to the OSU Scholars Archive—a huge problem, because OSU librarians recently mandated that all library faculty-written articles be archived. So Wirth sent back the contract with an addendum. The publisher countered with a whole new contract.

“We went from an exclusive agreement, giving the publisher all rights, to a nonexclusive agreement, giving the publisher first-publication rights only,” she said. “Basically, the copyright reverts back to me.”

The academic publishing paradigm is shifting.

“Some publishers are reacting positively to the growing awareness about author rights and agreeing to modify contracts,” Wirth said. “Certainly, not all of them are there yet. But authors need to ask for what they want.”

The “Rights Well” workshop is available to faculty and graduate students by request. Contact Andrea Wirth at 541-737-9903 for information.

~Lee Sherman

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