How to make your research open access: For publishers of student-authored or -edited journals

There are two basic features of an open-access journal:

  1. Provides free, immediate, online access to the full text of all articles published in the journal.
  2. Permits article authors to retain key rights to their works, requesting only the license to distribute …(i.e. a license that complies with the Budapest and/or Bethesda definitions of Open Access).

This document describes briefly how to convert a student-authored or student-edited journal to Open Access.

Free online access

  • If your journal has a Web site, the simplest way to provide free online access to its articles is to post the files (e.g. PDFs) on your Web server and link to them from your Web site.
    • However, this method is not the best because it will not provide metadata compliant with the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) format. Providing OAI metadata will allow your journal to be indexed in specialized search engines such as OAIster [link] and make it more accessible to general search engines such as Google.
  • To provide free online access to your journal’s articles with OAI-compliant metadata, use a journal management system which provides OAI metadata. There are several free and open source journal management systems available, including Open Journal Systems and DPubS. (The Open Journal Systems FAQprovides a list of other known open source journal management systems.) Each is free to install and use. You may choose a journal management system based on your journal’s needs and preferences.
    • To undertake your own journal management system implementation, download the software, install it on your Web server, and configure it to your satisfaction.
    • If you prefer not to manage your own journal management system implementation, your library or university may host it for you for free.
    • If your library or university is not in a position to manage your journal management system implementation, there are organizations that will provide this service for a fee. These include the Simon Frasier University Library (currently $750/year) and Scholarly Exchange (currently $750/year, first year free).
  • Whichever system you use, be sure to provide the articles in file formats that can be readily viewed by virtually all users (e.g., HTML or PDF). Proprietary word processing formats can't be viewed on many computers and they may be harder to preserve and use with the passage of time.
  • In addition, it is a good idea to deposit your journal’s articles in a repository. This will serve as a backup copy of articles in the event your journal Web site is temporarily or permanently inaccessible (e.g. if your journal closes some day). You might do any combination of the following:
    • If available, you can deposit articles in the author’s institution’s institutional repository.
    • If available, you can deposit articles in an applicable subject repository.
    • If your journal is affiliated with a university, and your university has an institutional repository, you should deposit all of your journal’s content there.
  • In addition to publishing current issues of your journal as open access, provide open access to back issues of the journal.
    • If your publication agreement required authors to assign copyright to the journal, the journal has the right to provide open access to back issues. If your publication agreement did not require authors to assign copyright to the journal, see the specific terms of your publication agreement to assure you have the right to do so without requesting the author's permission. (Remember, this is the publication agreement that authors signed at the time their article was published, not necessarily the publication agreement you use today.)

Open licensing

  • Amend your publication agreement so that the journal has permission to make the article available under a license that complies with the Budapest and/or Bethesda definitions of open access, such as a compliant Creative Commonslicense.
    • You may do this by allowing the author to retain copyright, but granting the journal the right to publish the article under the terms of a compliant Creative Commons license.
    • If you prefer to require the author to assign copyright to the journal, include in the agreement that journal will publish the article under the terms of a compliant Creative Commons license.
  • On each article, include a copyright notice. This notice should inform readers of their rights to use the article, e.g.if you have applied a Creative Commons license to your article.
    • Use the name of the specific Creative Commons license, e.g. Attribution 3.0 United States.
    • Link to the “human-readable” text of the license.
  • Include the appropriate Creative Commons license metadata in the file. This will allow machines to identify the article as open-licensed.

Use Open Access to your advantage: Discoverability

Now that your journal is open access, you want to leverage that to your advantage. Here are some tips to make your journal more accessible to both scholarly and general-purpose indexing services and search engines:

  • Be sure your journal publishes OAI-compliant metadata (see above).
  • Be sure your journal’s articles are also deposited in a repository (see above). This way, readers browsing or searching or search engines crawling that repository may encounter the article from your journal.
  • Be sure your journal’s articles are available in an open file format (e.g. HTML, PDF) rather than a closed file format (e.g. Microsoft Word). Fewer indexing services and search engines will be able to read closed file formats.
  • Submit your journal to the Directory of Open Access Journals.
    • The DOAJ requires that journals have an ISSN. ISSN numbers are assigned free of charge. For more information on getting an ISSN, see this page: Journals based in the U.S. can find more information about receiving an ISSN here.
  • See the SPARC guide to Getting Your Journal Indexed.
  • Make sure your journal is included in Google Scholar.
  • If you provide OAI-compliant metadata, register as a data provider with the Open Archives Initiative and OAIster.
  • Apply the lessons of search engine optimization to your journal Web site. Some starters:
    • If you have a robots.txt file, be sure it indicates that search engines are allowed to spider your page.
    • Provide a descriptive title for each page (in the HTML <title> tag). For example, the name of the article should be the title of the page, followed by the journal’s name.
    • Provide keywords and a description in the HTML <meta> tags for each page.
    • If you do not provide the full text of each article in HTML format, provide at least the article’s title, author, abstract, keywords, and journal name, issue, and date.
    • Most search engines provide some information on how to help them index your site, or at least to ensure that your site is indexed. For example:


  • Will my journal become less prestigious if we provide open access to its articles?
    • No.
  • Will my journal have a lower impact factor or receive fewer citations if we provide open access to its articles?
    • No.
  • Will my journal be dropped from indexes or library catalogs if we provide open access to its articles?
    • No.
  • Will my journal lose subscribers if we provide open access to its articles?
    • There is the possibility that some subscribers may choose to free ride. However:
      • Your journal will be available to ANY potential reader, not just the few that have
        subscription access. That can add up to greater impact.
      • Even if the journal is available for free access online, institutions and individuals may wish to continue to support the journal with subscriptions.
      • Many journals in fields such as physics, where self-archiving has been near 100%, have reported no cancelled subscriptions due to open access.
      • Many student journals already rely on funding from a university, student government, or society. In some cases, this may be supplemented by sponsorship or advertising. Review your journal’s finances and identify how much revenue, if any, comes from subscriptions
        • If producing and distributing print copies of the journal is not profitable (i.e. expenses from production and distribution are greater than income from subscriptions), you might consider online-only distribution.
      • Participation as a partner in the SPARC Student Journals program makes you eligible to receive SPARC member institutions’ purchase commitments. This can help to stabilize subscriptions. [* only if this program exists]
  • If my journal’s articles are available from other Web sites (e.g.the author’s institutional repository, mirrored copies using the Creative Commons license), then readers may access the article there instead of from the journal’s Web site. That means fewer visitors to the journal Web site, which might mean lower PageRank on Google or decreased advertising revenue is the journal has ads.
    • Perhaps. However, if readers find the article interesting, they may wish to read other articles from the same journal, and thus visit your journal’s Web site. These readers may never have heard of your journal before, which may actually bring more visitors to your journal Web site. In your publication agreement and Creative Commons license, you can require that other copies of the article attribute the journal and provide a link to the journal’s Web site.
    • In addition, the primary currency of scholarly journals is citations. If a reader accesses an article from a source other than your journal’s Web site, and cites the article in her own research, the citation will still be attributed to your journal. Readers may never have heard of your journal before, which may bring more citations to your journal.
    • In Google Scholar, multiple versions of the same article are grouped together, and the publisher’s full-text is the primary version. In other words, at least on Google Scholar, your journal’s version will be the first hit.
  • Will people plagiarize our articles or infringe the articles’ copyright if we provide open access to our journal’s articles?
    • This is no more likely with open access; see the author copyright FAQ.

Useful links

SPARC Resources

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Why Access Matters