Research for the masses

New policy expects full-time faculty to make scholarly, peer-reviewed articles available in a repository providing free access to all

The more eyes (on research), the better.

In keeping with its mission of providing knowledge for the world, Johns Hopkins University this summer enacted a new open access policy to commit to the ideal that its research should be openly available to all, not locked away in pricey journals.

The new policy, which went into effect July 1, states that the university expects that every scholarly, peer-reviewed article produced by full-time Johns Hopkins faculty will be available in an open access repository, an online portal that provides free access to published research. The policy applies to all scholarly articles for which a full-time faculty member is the sole or corresponding author and has been completed and accepted for publication on or after July 1, 2018. Scholarly articles whose copyright transfer or licensing terms with the publisher conflict with this policy are exempt.

Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums and co-chair of the 16-member Open Access Committee that set out in fall 2016 to shape the policy, says that Johns Hopkins has been and will continue to be an institution dedicated to open and transparent scholarship that is readily available to scholars, policymakers, and interested laypeople alike.

"The fundamental hope is that people across the globe will now have a choice," Tabb says. "Many people are fortunate to have access through published versions of record via increasingly expensive licensing arrangements, but many people do not have this option."

Tabb says that peer institutions such as Harvard, and public funders such as the National Institutes of Health, have gathered evidence regarding the positive impact of such choice on both academic researchers and interested laypeople. Since Johns Hopkins research is vital to populations in developing countries, he says, there is also a moral imperative to get the latest research quickly and cheaply to communities that could use it the most.

Most research funders, not just governmental but also private foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust, require that the scholarly articles based on research they have funded be published open access. Since 2008, articles supported by NIH funds must be publicly available within a year of publication.

To comply with the policy, faculty can submit articles in open access journals that don't have an associated paywall, or deposit them in online repositories such as PubMed Central and arXiv. The JHU Libraries created and maintain an open source Public Access Submission System, known as PASS, that allows faculty to deposit their documents for compliance. The libraries also maintain the institutional repository JScholarship, which can be used by full-time faculty in fields that do not have established open access repositories.

As defined by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, open access is the free, immediate online availability of research articles combined with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment. Since the term entered the vernacular in the early 2000s, hundreds of universities and scientific organizations have embraced in principle the ideal of making their research freely available via the internet, and further reducing the barriers to the wide and rapid dissemination of scholarship. To celebrate this commitment, international Open Access Week was founded in 2009, and this year it will be held from Oct. 22 to 28. A full list of JHU-associated Open Access Week events can be found on the Office of the Provost website.

The early champions of open access aimed to provide an alternative to the centuries-old print-based tradition whereby a manuscript is submitted to a journal for acceptance and then peer review-a process that can take roughly six months to several years before the submission's eventual publication, at which point only those who pay the journal's access fee, either per article or via an annual subscription, can view the full text.

Like their subscription-based counterparts, open access journals use editorial oversight and peer review of a manuscript before it can be published. Several business models are used to support such journals.

While Johns Hopkins scholars have had the freedom to publish research in the forum of their choosing, and have published numerous articles in open access journals, the university has not previously authored a coordinated approach or policy to open access.

Tabb says that while the policy is mandatory for full-time faculty, everyone at Johns Hopkins who publishes scholarly articles is encouraged to publish the author's final version of the article in open access mode.

To date, the university has appointed two people to lead the facilitation of the new policy. Robin Sinn serves as coordinator of the Office of Scholarly Communication; in this newly created position, she leads education and outreach efforts to provide guidance and answer questions from faculty and students about the university's open access policy. Caitlin Carter, scholarly communication and open access fellow at the Welch Medical Library, serves primarily faculty at the schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. Sinn can be reached at rsinn@jhu.eduand Carter at

More information about Johns Hopkins' open access policy is available on the Office of the Provost website.

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