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The Caltech Collection of Open Digital Archives (CODA): the Institute's collections of faculty research publications and other content supporting the mission of the Institute.

OA Frequently Asked Questions

The policy and its purpose:

Complying with the policy:

Scope of the policy:

Obtaining a waiver to the policy (opting out):

Legal aspects:

What will be done with the articles:

Impact on the scholarly publishing environment:

Additional information:

The policy and its purpose:

Why is Caltech doing this?

The goal is expressed in the first line of the policy: “The Faculty of the California Institute of Technology is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible.”


Is Caltech's policy unique?

No. Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Law School, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have similar policies. See a list of universities in the US that have policies and a complete world-wide list of various kinds of open access policies.

Research funders are supporting such efforts as well. For instance, the National Institutes of Health now require posting of articles derived from research they fund in the open access repository PubMed CentralHoward Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as well as the Wellcome Trust require any scholarly articles on research they fund to be made openly accessible.


What does the policy do for faculty?

The web makes it possible for faculty to share the manuscripts of their articles widely, openly, and freely; in addition, research has repeatedly shown that articles available freely online are more often cited and have greater impact than those not freely available. While many faculty already make their writings available on their web pages, some are prevented from doing so by perceived or actual limits set on such sharing in their publisher copyright transfer agreements. This policy will allow you to legally make your writings openly accessible, and it will enable Caltech to help you do so.


Complying with the policy:

How do faculty comply with the policy?

The policy operates automatically to give Caltech a license to any scholarly articles faculty members complete after its implementation on January 1, 2014.

Caltech has notified the major publishers of Caltech articles about the new policy.  To be thorough, you may communicate this policy to your publisher and add an addendum to any copyright license or assignment for scholarly articles stating that the agreement is subject to this non-exclusive prior license. That way, you will avoid agreeing to give the publisher exclusive rights that are inconsistent with the prior license to Caltech that permits open-access distribution. Science Commons provides a suitable form of addendum for this purpose. Whether you use the addendum or not, the license to Caltech still will remain in effect.

The author’s final manuscript, post peer-review should be deposited in CaltechAUTHORS.

What if a journal publisher refuses to publish an article because of the prior permission given to Caltech under the policy?

You have a number of options. One is to try to persuade the publisher that it should accept Caltech’s non-exclusive license in order to be able to publish your article. Another is to seek a different publisher. A third is to obtain a waiver for the article under the policy (see more below under "Obtaining a waiver").

When and how does one submit a paper to CaltechAUTHORS under this policy?

Papers should be submitted as of the date of publication. There are 3 ways to submit a paper under the policy, upload the author’s final manuscript, post peer-review, via a simple web form (Simple Deposit), through the Advanced Deposit process or send it to the CaltechAUTHORS support list,  If you have already submitted this version to a preprint server (e.g. arXiv), you may email the paper’s identifying repository number, or the URL, instead of the paper.


Scope of the policy:

What kinds of writings does the policy apply to?

It applies to “scholarly articles.” Using terms from the Budapest Open Access Initiative, scholarly articles are articles that describe the fruits of research and that authors give to the world for the sake of inquiry and knowledge without expectation of payment. Such articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings.

Many written products are not encompassed under this specific notion of scholarly article, such as books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, lecture videos, or other copyrighted works. The Open Access policy is not meant to address these kinds of works.

What version of the paper is submitted under this policy?

The author’s final version of the article; that is, the author’s manuscript with any changes made as a result of the peer-review process, but prior to publisher’s copy-editing or formatting.

Does the policy apply to articles which were previously written?

The policy doesn't apply to papers accepted for publication before the policy's effective date, January 1, 2014, nor any articles for which one has entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy's effective date.  The policy does not apply to any articles you write after leaving Caltech.

Does the policy apply to co-authored papers?

Yes. Each joint author of an article holds copyright in the article and, individually, has the authority to grant Caltech a non-exclusive license. Joint authors are those who participate in the preparation of the article with the intention that their contributions be merged into inseparable or interdependent parts of the whole.

To whom does the policy apply (professorial faculty, students, research scientists, JPL)?

The Caltech Open Access Policy applies exclusively to tenured/tenure-track faculty, research faculty, and postdoctoral scholars with appointments on the Caltech campus.  Neither graduate nor undergraduate students are bound by the policy.  The policy does not apply to research staff.  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory falls outside of the purview of the Institute Open Access Policy with the exception of professorial faculty who hold dual appointments both on campus and at the lab.


Obtaining a waiver to the policy (opting out):

How does one get a waiver?

To obtain a waiver, fill out a simple web form informing Caltech of the following:

  • Name of Caltech author
  • Title of article (expected or working title)
  • Journal you expect to publish in

Which publishers are most likely to request a waiver?

AAAS, Nature Publishing Group, Institute of Physics (IoP) Publishing, and PNAS routinely require waivers from university Open Access policies.

What happens if one does not get a waiver, but assigns exclusive rights to a publisher anyway, by signing a publisher's agreement that conflicts with the policy?

Caltech’s license would still have force, because it would have been granted (through this policy) prior to the signing of the publisher contract. If the publisher expresses concern that cannot be remedied, you have several options. You could:

What happens if co-authors disagree about whether or not to get a waiver?

Each co-author in a jointly written article owns the copyright. Under U.S. copyright law, any co-author has the right to grant a nonexclusive permission to others. It would be up to each faculty author to decide whether to get a waiver from the policy for a given article to accommodate another co-author.

Why does the policy include a waiver?  Does the existence of a waiver procedure undermine the policy?

One of the concerns frequently raised in implementing an Open Access policy is the importance of a waiver for junior faculty who do not want to jeopardize their ability to work with certain publishers. Another was the desire to comply with certain scholarly societies' policies even if in conflict with this policy.

Even with a waiver option, the policy changes the default rights assigned to the author. The new policy gives Caltech rights to openly share Caltech faculty work and extends rights to the authors for their use as well.

Legal aspects:

Is Caltech taking one's rights to one's own writings?

No. This policy grants specific nonexclusive permissions to Caltech. One still retains ownership and complete control of the copyright in one's writings, subject only to this prior permission. One may exercise the copyrights in any way one sees fit, including transferring them to a publisher if you so desire. However, if you do so, Caltech would still retain its license and the right to distribute the article from its repository. Also, if your article arises, in whole or in part, from NIH-funded research and was accepted for publication after April 7, 2008, you must retain sufficient rights to comply with NIH’s Public Access Policy.

What will be done with the articles:

What will Caltech do with the articles?

Caltech will continue to operate its open-access repository, CaltechAUTHORS, to make available the scholarly articles provided under the policy. This repository has Caltech's institutional commitment to ensure its availability, longevity, and functionality, to the extent technologically feasible. The repository is backed up, mirrored, and made open to harvesting by search services such as OAIster and Google Scholar. Adjustments will be made to the deposit processes, under the guidance of the Office of the Provost, to make it as convenient as possible. Caltech may further allow others to distribute the content, provided that the articles are not sold for profit. For instance, faculty at other institutions could be given permission to make copies for free distribution directly to their students. However, Caltech does not have – and cannot grant to others – the right to sell the articles for a profit or to sell a book containing the articles for a profit.

Does this license preclude all activities involving payment?

No, not necessarily. An activity will not cease to be permitted under the policy merely because a charge is imposed to cover some or all of the costs of the activity, provided that articles are not sold for a profit. Hence, for example, Caltech’s selling course packs at cost would be permitted. The Office of the Provost will provide advice on what licensed uses of repository material are appropriate and consistent with the purposes of the policy.

Can the articles be used to provide search or other services by companies, such as Google?

Yes, the license allows Caltech to enable both commercial and nonprofit entities to use the articles to provide search or other services, so long as the articles are not being sold for a profit. This is true even if the services generate advertising revenues or the company charges for the services. For instance, the license allows Caltech to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, so that they can more readily be found, and to be used to provide other value-added services as long as the articles themselves are not sold for a profit. Caltech also could authorize use of the articles in a commercial service that provides information extracted from the articles (but not the full text itself), such as bibliographic data or citation lists. Any arrangements would be consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles.

Who will monitor implementation of the policy?

The Office of the Provost will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will take effect as of January 1, 2014 and will be reviewed after three years by the Faculty Library Committee and a report will be presented to the Faculty.


Impact on the scholarly publishing environment:

Will this policy harm journals, scholarly societies, small publishers, or peer review?

There is no empirical evidence that even when all articles are freely available, journals are canceled. The major societies in physics have not seen any impact on their publishing programs despite the fact that for more than 10 years, an open access repository (arXiv) has been making available nearly all of the High Energy Physics literature written during that period. If there is downward pressure on journal prices over time, publishers with the most inflated prices – which tend to be the commercial publishers – will feel the effects sooner. Journals will still be needed for their value-added services, such as peer review logistics, copy editing, type setting, and online distribution.

Will this policy harm those in the tenure process who need to show publication in top tier journals?

The waiver option protects authors who need to publish in journals that will not cooperate with the policy.

What's in it for Caltech?

The policy will increase the impact of Caltech research by making it more widely available. Studies show a very large citation advantage for open access articles, ranging from 45% to over 500%, but restrictive publisher business models limit wide sharing through onerous terms in contracts with university libraries and individual authors. For example, many publishers prohibit authors from posting their work openly on the web, and publishers commonly ‘rent’ access to their content, putting access at risk following cancellation of subscriptions. Performing systematic searching, advanced indexing, or analysis are prohibited in virtually all contracts.


Additional information:

What is Open Access?

Open access as discussed in relation to this policy refers to free availability of journal articles on the public internet, permitting any user to read, download, copy, 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, noncommercial purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.

How is granting Caltech a non-exclusive license compatible with Caltech being able to exercise "all rights under copyright"?

The legal framework for copyright is that you can’t give away what you don’t have. Caltech will have been granted nonexclusive rights, and will not be able in turn to grant exclusive rights. Caltech, however, will be able to exercise all of the other rights under copyright, including reproducing, displaying, distributing, and making derivative works of articles covered by the policy, as long as these activities are not done for profit.

Why make this an automatic license?  Why not suggest that faculty individually retain a license for open access distribution?

Experience has shown that “opt in” systems have little effect on authors’ behavior. For instance, before Congress made it a requirement, participation in the NIH Public Access Policy was optional. During that period, there was only a 4% level of compliance. Experience in many areas has shown that waiver systems achieve much higher degrees of participation than opt-in systems.

Individual faculty benefit from a blanket policy because it makes it possible for Caltech to work with publishers on behalf of the faculty, to simplify procedures and broaden access.

Why isn't student work, or that of research staff, covered by the policy?

The policy applies only to faculty because in a faculty policy it seemed clearest to focus on faculty work. Caltech already receives a license to Ph.D. theses; in addition, many student articles will be co-authored by faculty and will be subject to this policy.

Why aren't Ph.D. theses included in the policy?

Caltech has already made a commitment to making Ph.D. theses openly available worldwide. CaltechTHESIS makes more than 6,000 selected theses and dissertations from all Caltech departments, dating as far back as 1921, openly available to the world. Since 2003, all new Ph.D. theses are being deposited by graduate students when degrees are awarded. The Caltech Library is in the process of digitizing all Ph.D. theses from the Institute and making them as widely available as copyright law allows.

Who pays for the archiving and distribution of the articles?

Caltech already has the technical infrastructure in place to store the articles, in the form of CODA, the Caltech Collection of Open Digital Archives. In addition, the Caltech Library has experience supporting access to faculty research such as technical reports and working papers.

How is Caltech's policy related to the NIH Public Access policy?

The NIH Public Access Policy applies only to NIH funded research. It requires authors to deposit their peer-reviewed articles in the open access repository PubMed Central where they must be accessible within 12 months of publication. Making the policy mandatory has had a dramatic effect on deposits: the rate has increased from under 10% to an estimated 60%. The policy makes tax payer funded research publicly available.

A particular article could be subject to both the Caltech Open Access policy and the NIH Public Access Policy, if it is peer reviewed and arose, in whole or in part, from NIH-funded research. Even if the author decides to opt out of the Caltech policy for an article, the author must reserve rights sufficient to comply with the NIH policy when entering into a publication agreement for the article.

Why doesn't the policy address Open Access journals?

This policy takes only a first step towards re-balancing the scholarly publishing system, giving Caltech a means of negotiating for faculty and allowing wider sharing of their research. Other steps will no doubt make sense in the future. Some universities, for example, have begun supporting open access journals by creating funds authors can use for publication fees.

What about the timing of the release of articles in CaltechAUTHORS?

Articles will not be released in CaltechAUTHORS until the article is published by its journal.  Caltech Library staff monitor the publications of the faculty and can confirm official publication and will honor publisher embargo requests unless otherwise specifically instructed by the faculty author.

What about version control, since the policy only applies to the author's accepted manuscript?

With or without this policy, the academic community will need to work on the problem of version control in digital scholarship. There are technical and standard-based solutions that will address this problem. Nomenclature and modeling efforts have been started by the National Information Standards Organization and the Version Identification Framework.  These efforts will be closely monitored.

This FAQ is derived from the MIT Faculty Open Access Policy FAQ.  Text licensed under Creative Commons, unless otherwise noted. All other media all rights reserved unless otherwise noted.