What Is an Open Access Mandate?

Writers and publishers often voluntarily grant Open Access status to scholarly articles and book excerpts. But sometimes, a publisher or research sponsor will require that an article be available on an Open Access basis. This requirement, called an Open Access mandate, is another interesting aspect to the world of OA publishing. Schools offering Information Processing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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About Open Access Mandates

Open Access (OA) publishing is the practice of allowing access to scholarly materials free-of-cost. An Open Access mandate is the requirement that scholarly articles and research be published on an OA basis. This mandate may be issued by an academic institution or funding body that issues grants to scholars. Some institutions may call this a 'public access' mandate, requirement or policy. This is a practice that occurs internationally, including in the U.S., U.K., Europe and Australia.

It is typically be up to each institution to determine what the terms of their mandate will be. In general, though, the mandate applies to research that is complete and has been subjected to peer review. Sometimes, the mandate may give the researcher a time limit, such as a year or six months from publication, within which they must comply.

Why a Mandate?

To some observers, a requirement to share work for free may seem a bit over the top. But supporters of the Open Access movement believe that sharing information is vital to the success and efficacy of academic research. Unfortunately, some scholars may have trouble affording and accessing important published material. Requiring material to be published as OA ensures that affordability issues will not prohibit the free exchange of academic information.

Another reason to require OA publishing is the fact that many bodies that issue grants to researchers use public funds. These bodies, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are government-run and taxpayer-funded. In order to provide some public payoff for that use of federal income, the NIH requires all grant recipients to add their work to a public access repository.

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Avoiding a Free-For-All

Another concern for some observers may be the fact that many writers and publications rely upon profits in order to continue funding their projects. Additionally, a requirement to offer research and written material for free may seem like a good way to invite intellectual property theft. But fortunately, the OA system has evolved to answer to both concerns.

As discussed in our prior overview of Open Access publishing, there is still room for profit with OA. For example, it's possible to publish on a delayed Open Access basis, meaning that material is available for free only after a limited period in which it is first only available for a fee. This limited period of paid time may well be compatible with the time limits placed by some OA mandates. And Open Access publishing doesn't always come with an allowance for full access to the material - partially licensed free material is called 'Gratis OA.' Even in such cases when full access is allowed, known as 'Libre OA,' a Creative Commons license can provide the author and publisher with some intellectual property protection.

Where to Find Open Access Articles

Open Access articles can be found in a variety of places, sometimes even on an author's own website. Commonly, though, they are entered into repositories, or digital databases. Some popular OA repositories in the U.S. include PubMed and the Public Library of Science (PloS). These both focus on science, but there are repositories for the humanities and other disciplines as well. The Registry of Open Access Repositories provides links to other sources, including those from other nations.

This article is the companion to an earlier piece about Open Access publishing. Check it out to learn more about the basic terms and concepts at work in OA.

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