Good practices for university open-access policies

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  • Last revised April 10, 2024. Version 1.8.


  • This is a guide to good practices for college and university open-access (OA) policies. It's based on the type of rights-retention OA policy first adopted at Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and the University of Kansas. Policies of this kind have since been adopted at a wide variety of institutions in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australasia, for example, at public and private institutions, large and small institutions, affluent and indigent institutions, research universities and liberal arts colleges, and at whole universities, schools within universities, and departments within schools.
  • At the same time, the guide includes recommendations that should be useful to institutions taking other approaches.
  • The guide is designed to evolve. We revise and enlarge it regularly, building on our own experience and the experience of colleagues elsewhere. We welcome suggestions.
  • The guide was in the works for several years before we launched the first public version in October 2012. It's one small part of the larger effort described in Recommendation 4.2 of the ten-year anniversary statement of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (September 2012): Supporters of open access "should develop guidelines to universities and funding agencies considering OA policies, including recommended policy terms, best practices, and answers to frequently asked questions."
  • We deliberately call our recommendations "good practices" rather than "best practices". On many points, there are multiple, divergent good practices. Good practices can change as circumstances change, and as we learn more. Good practices are easier to identify than best practices. And there can be wider agreement on which practices are good than on which practices are best.
  • We hope the guide will be useful to institutions considering an OA policy or reviewing an older policy, and to faculty, students, librarians, and administrators who want their institution to start considering one.
  • The guide is written and edited by Peter Suber and Stuart Shieber. It reflects our views as individuals, not necessarily those of Harvard University.
    • Peter is the Senior Advisor on Open Access at Harvard Library and Director of the Harvard Open Access Project at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. His ORCID is 0000-0002-3577-2890.
    • Stuart is a Professor of Computer Science and the Faculty Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. His ORCID is 0000-0002-7733-8195.
    • Emily Kilcer researched and wrote the section on Filling the repository. Emily is a Project Coordinator at the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and Research Assistant at the Harvard Open Access Project. Her ORCID is 0000-0002-4141-5646.
  • We've written the guide in consultation with these expert colleagues:
    • Ginny Barbour, Executive Officer of the Australasian Open Access Support Group (AOASG)
    • Isabel Bernal, Manager of institutional repository DIGITAL.CSIC, Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC)
    • Amy Brand, Director of The MIT Press, and Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society
    • Ellen Finnie, Program Manager, Scholarly Publishing and Licensing, MIT Libraries
    • Ada Emmett, 2012-2013 Visiting Associate Professor of Library and Information Science and Special Assistant to the Dean for Scholarly Communications, Purdue University; Scholarly Communications Program Head, University of Kansas (KU) Libraries, and Chair of the KU Open Access Task Force
    • Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC)
    • Iryna Kuchma, Open Access Programme Manager of Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL)
    • Andrée Rathemacher, Professor Librarian, University of Rhode Island
    • Alma Swan, Convenor of Enabling Open Scholarship (EOS), Director of the Directory of Open Access Journals, and Director of Key Perspectives Ltd.
  • We thank the colleagues and organizations listed here, and hope to add more over time. Please contact us if you or your organization may be interested. Readers should not assume that consulting experts and endorsing organizations support every recommendation in the guide.