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Understanding Open Access

The purpose of this guide is to give VDOT employees a basic overview of "Open Access" journals (and other OA resources). This guide does not discuss "Open Data."

Green Open Access or "Self-Archiving"

Digital repositories function as "storehouses" of publications organized around an institution or a discipline. Green Open Access, better known as "self-archiving," gives authors the ability to share and post versions of their scholarly or creative works to Web sites (outside of the journal that accepted the article for initial publication), such as an Open Access Institutional Repository sponsored by a university.

This approach can be used to preserve and provide access to all kinds of works, including: journal articles, books, theses, dissertations, conference papers, slide presentations, technical reports, working papers, administrative documents, videos, images, and more. 

Many universities in Virginia (and elsewhere) host Open Access Institutional Repositories. Examples include the University of Virginia's Libra, Virginia Tech's VTechworks Open Access Institutional Repository and George Mason University's archival repository service, called MARS

Content in repositories often includes peer-reviewed content (publisher's version or post-prints) as well as pre-prints, the version of an article before it under went peer review.

Are There Non-University Repositories?

The short answer is yes, but not many. One example is arXiv.org  a repository of electronic preprints (sometimes called e-prints), of scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance. After it was created, physicist Philip Gibbs created the viXra.org e-print archive as an alternative to arXive.org.

In many instances (short of curation by a society or a national library), Open Access Repositories tend to be "subject based." For example, consider bioRxiv.org a preprint repository for the biological sciences launched in November 2013 and RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), founded in 1997. 

Content in repositories often includes peer-reviewed content (publisher's version or post-prints) as well as pre-prints (the version of an article before it went through peer review) making it technically a different publication, but in most cases close in content to what ends up getting published. 

Transportation-Specific Repositories

The National Transportation Library (NTL) hosts a resource called the NTL Digital Repository (set "search in" to "Digital Repository" to limit your search accordingly), noting materials in it  "are in the public domain and/or explicit permission has been provided by the rights holder for NTL to make their materials available for free over the web" making it effectively an Open Access Repository, even though NTL's 2012 Collection Development and Maintenance Policy does not use the term "Open Access."

At this time the NTL Digital Repository focuses primarily on reports, not journal articles/pre-prints. NTL places emphasis on collecting documents, by priority, from the following publishers: 

i.          United States Department of Transportation agencies 
ii.         State Departments of Transportation, local agencies, MPOs, tribal road agencies 
iii.        Other federal agencies 
iv.        Universities 
v.         Professional organizations 
vi.        Private sector sources 

Publisher Policies on Green OA

Publisher Vocabulary

As publishers are constantly revising their terms, the best way to find out if they support repositories and green OA is to read your publishing contract. If you sign away your copyright when you submit to a journal, you may be unable to self-archive. SHERPA/RoMEO is an tool that notes publisher's copyright policies to help you self-archive. Please note the vocabulary below:


Preprint (Author Original, Author's Version)

The (draft) paper first submitted to publishers - it has not been through peer review or accepted for publication.


Post-print (Accepted Manuscript, Second-Stage Manuscript, Final Draft)

This paper has been through peer review and accepted for publication but has not been formatted by the publisher.


Publisher's Version (Version of Record, Published Version)

The final, published version of a paper with the publisher's typesetting, copy-edits, comments, supplemental data, hyperlinks, etc.


Embargo (Delayed Open Access)

Some subscription journals have chosen to make all of their content open access after a set amount of time has passed. This time period is usually 1 - 5 years but can be as short as 2 months and as long as 10 years. Some embargoes only lift off of Preprints or Postprints, allowing authors to use Green OA, but some journals also lift the embargoes off of the Publisher's Version.

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