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Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries

Digital Scholarship
and Communications

Open Access & Authors' Rights

Understanding Open Access

The open access movement aims to modernize the scholarly communication system to take full advantage of the possibilities afforded by online communication, specifically the immediate global availability of scholarly outputs. Open access is accomplished by removing both cost and legal barriers to scholarly publications through several approaches:

  • Working with traditional and emerging publishers to adopt open access models for their journals, such as PLoS, Springer BMC, and others.
  • Developing community-controlled infrastructure that scholars can use to publish or share their works, such as the open access journals hosted by Vanderbilt Libraries (below) and Vanderbilt's Institutional Repository (
  • Developing new forms of open scholarly outputs such as digital humanities projects, digital artwork and exhibits, and other forms of media.

The most common definition of Open Access comes from the Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration of February 14, 2002: 

By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

Open Access Journals at Vanderbilt

The Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries hosts the following open access journals using the Open Journal Systems software from the Public Knowledge Project:

Green and Gold Open Access

Green open access means archiving an open access version of a work in a subject or institutional repository. Most publishers allow for self archiving of some version of an article. If the publishing agreement does not allow for self-archiving, an author can negotiate the retention of this right by using an addendum to the publishing contract.

Gold open access literature has been published in journal that makes all of its content available for free to the reader. This method may require an article processing charge (APC). In some cases, subscription journals may allow authors to make their individual article open access by paying an additional fee. These so-called "hybrid" journals, may grant a citation advantage to individual authors, but are not broadly transformative of the scholarly communications system.

Learn More

If you would like to learn more about open access and your choices for publication, please consult our Research Guide or request a consultation with us. We can help you assess the quality and reputation of open access journals, as well as understand the various open access licenses, including the Creative Commons licenses.

Understanding Authors' Rights

Now more than ever it is crucial that you understand your rights as an artist, author, or creator of any sort. We are available to help you understand the fundamentals of copyright law and to point you to resources designed to protect your rights as a scholarly creator. When in comes time to publish your work, we can help you understand how to negotiate publication agreements, the implications of retaining or transferring your copyright, and royalty payments. Find out how to use the SPARC addendum to preserve the right to post your scholarly articles on your own website and to deposit them in the Institutional Repository, Vanderbilt University's scholarly repository, or find an appropriate disciplinary repository.

Please consult our Research Guide or request a consultation with us.