A New Author Rights Benefit (a.k.a. Open Access Policy) at Virginia Tech

On March 22, 2021, an open access policy was passed by Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors, an achievement that was years in the making. The new policy might be better named an author rights benefit, since the policy retains rights for authors, rather than requiring deposit (as “policy” implies).  In this respect, the policy is consistent with “rights retention” policies at numerous other U.S. universities.

The new open access language is now part of the university’s Policy 13000 (PDF), at the bottom of page 4:

8. For Scholarly Articles: Authors grant to the university a nonexclusive license to copyright in their scholarly articles in order to provide open access (free, public, online access) to them via the university repository. However, anything deposited in the university repository is subject to the provisions of all the numbered paragraphs above. An author may waive the license for a particular article or delay access for a specified period of time. The university may not sell the articles. Authors deposit in the university repository an electronic copy of their unformatted, post peer-review, accepted manuscript for each scholarly article within one month after the date of its publication. Upon deposit of accepted manuscripts into the university repository, the university grants authors a nonexclusive license to share accepted manuscripts elsewhere.

The open access policy guide has everything Virginia Tech researchers need to know, but here are a few key points:

  • Authors at Virginia Tech can deposit their accepted manuscript (the version after peer review, not the journal’s published version) as early as the day it’s accepted, with no embargo, regardless of the journal’s copyright transfer agreement (a very few journals may require a waiver).
  • The deposit window extends one month after publication.  To get the greatest benefit from an open access version, it’s important to have it available when others are looking for it, often as the result of a table of contents alert or Google Scholar alert.  Additionally, after publication the article metadata will be available in Elements, so deposit only involves identifying the article in your publications list and uploading the file.
  • In addition to Elements, there’s also a web deposit form and an email deposit option (a waiver is also available through all three options).
  • Everyone at Virginia Tech is covered by the policy.  Although more than 50 universities have open access policies, ours is among a very few that includes students and staff (the others are the University of California system, Penn State, and the University of North Texas).
  • The policy applies only to scholarly articles, not books or other forms of scholarship.
  • The policy is not retrospective, and applies only to manuscripts accepted after the policy was passed.  Deposit of article versions accepted prior to policy passage is still dependent on journal permissions.  If you still have your accepted manuscript, you can look up permissions on the Sherpa Romeo website, or get help by emailing vtechworks@vt.edu.
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Explore the Policy Guide

The policy provides an important path to open access when other options may not be available.  Some journals have no sharing policy at all — once the copyright transfer agreement is signed, the article is paywalled indefinitely.  Some journals have lengthy embargos (for Elsevier, up to 48 months).  Some disciplines lack open access journals.  And the article processing charges at some open access journals can be a barrier for those without funding.  The new policy at Virginia Tech — allowing immediate open access to the accepted, peer reviewed version — overcomes all of these obstacles. And it’s worth noting that not every university provides researchers this right — for example, Virginia Tech is the only university in Virginia with an open access policy.

Open Access Week will feature a forum discussion of the policy on Monday, October 25, with special guest and open access expert Peter Suber of Harvard University. A PDN session on the policy will be held the following day at 3:00pm, and sessions will be available throughout the year.

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About Philip Young

Philip Young is the repository manager of VTechWorks, which provides global access to Virginia Tech scholarship. He also provides outreach to the university on open access, ORCiD, and Perma.cc.
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