Author Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

why open access?

policy and license basics

common concerns

depositing articles in dash

using an author addendum


Q: Why are we doing this?

Harvard University has long had a policy that "when entering into agreements for the publication and distribution of copyrighted materials, authors will make arrangements that best serve the public interest." In the eyes of many, including the Provost's Committee on Scholarly Publishing and large numbers of individual faculty members, this goal is best served by using the unified action of the faculty to enable individual faculty to distribute their scholarly writings freely.

Other organizations with a vested interest in advancing research are independently supporting such efforts as well. For instance, the Wellcome Trust requires any scholarly articles on research they fund to be made openly accessible. The National Institutes of Health, by Congressional legislation, have instituted a similar requirement, mandating posting in the open-access PubMed Central repository.

Q: What do the Harvard open-access policies provide?

The policies have two basic provisions. First, faculty commit to deposit a certain version of their future scholarly articles in DASH, Harvard's open-access repository. Second, faculty grant certain nonexclusive rights over their future scholarly articles to Harvard, authorizing it to make those deposited articles open access. This grant of nonexclusive rights is not equivalent to a grant of ownership. It includes waiver and embargo options to enhance author freedom and control over their work.

Sometimes we call this grant of nonexclusive rights the Harvard open-access license.

The policies do not require authors to submit new scholarly articles to any particular type of journals, such as open-access journals. On the contrary, the policies deliberately allow authors to submit new work to the journals of their choice.

All Harvard schools now have open-access policies, each one adopted by faculty vote. In their major provisions, they are identical.

Q: Why do the open-access policies include an automatic or default license? Why not just suggest authors individually retain a license for open-access distribution?

First, experience has shown that mere encouragement has little effect. 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. During the same period studies showed that the low level of compliance was not due to opposition so much as preoccupation, busyness, and forgetfulness.

Second, experience in many areas has shown that opt-out systems achieve much higher degrees of participation than opt-in systems, even while remaining noncoercive.

Third, by making faculty-wide policies, individual faculty benefit from their membership in the policy-making group. The university can work with publishers on behalf of the faculty to simplify procedures and broaden access. Without a policy covering many authors, we could not take full advantage of the benefit of unified action.

The school-level policies at Harvard only cover faculty. However, non-faculty scholars may create a similar license for their own work through the voluntary individual open-access license.

Q: What are the advantages for authors?

The Harvard open-access license:

  • Gives authors permission to make their work open access without the difficulty or uncertainty of negotiating with publishers;
  • Enables the university to help authors make their works open access;
  • Preserves author freedom to publish in the journals of their choice;
  • Preserves author freedom to decide for or against open access for each publication; and
  • Enhances author rights to reuse their work, and gives authors more rights over their own work than standard, or even progressive, publishing contracts.

The chief benefit of the open-access license is the way it fosters open access itself. While the benefits of open access itself are too numerous to list here, we will mention one. Research has repeatedly shown that articles that are free online are cited more often than articles that are not free online, and this trend is increasing over time. This phenomenon is often called the open-access citation or impact advantage.

Q: What will Harvard do with the articles covered by its license?

Here are some examples:

  • Availability in DASH. Harvard has set up an open-access repository called DASH to distribute the scholarly articles deposited by Harvard researchers.

  • Reuse by the author. When Harvard receives the grant of nonexclusive rights from faculty, it grants the same rights back to the faculty. The result is that faculty receive more rights from the OA policy, to use and reuse their own work, than they received under their publishing contracts.

  • Creation of derivative works. Harvard may use derivative work rights to include articles in a collection or database, to change document formats, to prepare abridgments, or to create other derivative works that we cannot currently foresee. Harvard will not authorize derivative works without the author's permission.

  • Non-commercial distribution. Through the transferability provision, Harvard may further allow others to distribute content in DASH, 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.

  • Instructional purposes. The Harvard open-access license grants Harvard the right to license articles for free use in a course pack, so long as the course pack is not sold for profit. Alternatively, those seeking to include articles in a coursepack could continue to get permissions from the publisher, typically by paying royalties to the publisher. To take another example, Harvard could also authorize others to make articles available online (for example, on a course website or another repository), provided that these were not sold for a profit.

  • Harvesting, indexing, and other services. Consistent with the goals of open access and ensuring wide visibility and availability of scholarly articles, the license allows Harvard 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. For instance, the license allows Harvard to enable the articles to be harvested and indexed by search services, such as Google Scholar, and to be used to provide other value-added services that don't involve selling the articles themselves for a profit. Harvard 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.

  • Technological innovation. If new means of distributing or making the articles available evolve during the lengthy term of copyright, the license is intended to give Harvard the flexibility to use those means to advance the purposes of the open-access policy, provided always that the articles are not sold for a profit.


Q: What kinds of writings do the open-access policies cover?

Only scholarly articles.

We focus on scholarly articles because, in the language of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, these are the primary works that scholars publish "for the sake of inquiry and knowledge" and "give to the world without expectation of payment." Scholarly articles are typically presented in peer-reviewed scholarly journals and conference proceedings.

While DASH, the Harvard repository, welcomes scholarly works other than articles, the policies only cover articles. Among the works outside the category of scholarly articles are books, popular articles, commissioned articles, fiction and poetry, encyclopedia entries, ephemeral writings, lecture notes, and lecture videos.

If you wonder whether a given work is covered the policies or welcome in DASH, please contact the Office for Scholarly Communication.

Like the school-level policies for faculty, the voluntary individual open-access license is also limited to scholarly articles.

Q: What version of a scholarly article should authors deposit in the repository?

The policies ask authors to deposit "the final version of the article". But since our policies were adopted, the more self-explanatory term "accepted author manuscript" has become more widely accepted for describing the version we have in mind.

The accepted author manuscript of a work is the version approved by peer review, or the last version the author sends to the publisher after peer review. It does not include unilateral edits made by the journal after peer review, or the journal's look and feel.

In a few cases we will deposit the published version, also called the version of record. For example, we will deposit this version when Harvard's HOPE fund pays an article processing charge for that article, or when the publisher gives permission to deposit that version. If you're not certain whether we could deposit the version of record in a given case, please contact the Office for Scholarly Communication.

Q: Does the license to Harvard apply to articles I wrote before the policy was adopted?

No. The school-level open-access policies do not apply to any articles that were completed before the policy at your school was adopted, nor to any articles for which you entered into an incompatible publishing agreement before the policy was adopted.

If you are non-faculty author, you are not subject to the school-level policies. However, if you sign the voluntary individual open-access license, then it too will not apply to articles written before you signed the license.

Q: Does the policy apply to articles I write after leaving Harvard?

No. Once you are no longer affiliated with Harvard, any articles you write will not be subject to the open-access policies at your school and will not be licensed to Harvard. Likewise, the voluntary individual open-access license applies only as long as the author is affiliated with Harvard.

Q: How do I request a waiver of the Harvard license?

You may request a waiver of the license granted to Harvard on an article-by-article basis. Simply use the Waiver Generator.

Even if you obtain a waiver for a given article, you should still deposit the accepted author manuscript in DASH. It can be made available after a delay, or kept "dark" depending on the nature of your publication agreement. The OSC can help determine what kind of distribution is appropriate for the work.

If your article is subject to the NIH Public Access policy, note that your obligations under the NIH Public Access Policy cannot be waived. The same may be true of open-access policies at some other funding agencies. Look up your funder in the ROARMAP database for more information.

Q: Does the license to Harvard apply to co-authored papers?

Yes. If you are a co-author of an article, you should inform your fellow co-authors about the nonexclusive license that you have granted Harvard under the school-level open-access policies (or the individual open-access license. If they object to the license, and cannot be convinced it is beneficial, then remember that you can obtain a waiver for the article.

Each joint author of an article holds copyright in the article and, individually, has the authority to grant Harvard a nonexclusive license. However, one waiver from one author is sufficient to waive the license to Harvard.

Please contact us with any questions you may have about seeking a waiver for a co-authored paper.

Q: What if my article is subject to the NIH Public Access Policy?

Your article will be subject to the NIH Public Access Policy if it is peer reviewed and arose, in whole or in part, from NIH-funded research and is accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.

The NIH policy cannot be waived. (The same is true of open-access policies from many other funding agencies. Look up your funder in the ROARMAP database for more information.) You may, however, obtain a waiver of the license to Harvard for an article.

The license granted to Harvard through the school-level policies and the individual open-access license includes rights sufficient to comply with the NIH policy, but also provides other nonexclusive rights that will enable Harvard and faculty authors to use their articles in additional ways—for example, depositing them in a Harvard repository.

For more on compliance with the NIH policy, please see the details and instructions from Harvard Medical School.

Q: Are students covered by the Harvard open-access policies?

Not in general. But if they are graduate students, their theses and dissertations will usually become open access. And, any student may volunteer to be covered by signing Harvard’s individual open-access license.

Q: What if I'm a non-faculty author and would like my scholarly articles to be covered by an open-access license?

Harvard faculty are already covered by open-access licenses through the school-level open-access policies. Current administrators, librarians, staff, postdocs, fellows, students, and other non-faculty researchers at Harvard may create a similar license for themselves through the voluntary individual open-access license.

But with or without an open-access license, scholarly works by Harvard affiliates are welcome in DASH.

Q: I'm a graduate student. How do I make my thesis or dissertation open access?

You will be submitting your thesis or dissertation through ETDs @ Harvard, Harvard's centrally supported and locally customized electronic submission system.

Submission consists of a simple five-step process that takes about 10 minutes to complete. During this time you will provide contact information for, document metadata about, and upload a PDF of your work.

You will have the opportunity to submit an ORCID in the submission process. Additionally, you will be agreeing to Harvard’s author agreement, which grants the University a non-exclusive license to preserve, reproduce, and display your work.

Once approved by your School, your thesis or dissertation will be sent to various downstream Library systems, including DASH (for access); DRS (for preservation); and HOLLIS (for discovery).

If you have questions related to this process or about any associated policies, then please contact your degree-granting department. If you have questions about DASH, then please contact the Office for Scholarly Communication.

Q: What is the individual open-access license?

This a voluntary open-access license that any Harvard researchers may choose for their own scholarly articles. Because Harvard faculty are already covered by open-access licenses through the school-level open-access policies, in practice the individual open-access license is for non-faculty researchers, such as administrators, librarians, staff, postdocs, fellows, and students.

Through the school-level open-access policies, faculty grant Harvard certain nonexclusive rights to their future scholarly articles. These enable Harvard to make a certain version of those articles open access through DASH, Harvard's open-access repository. Moreover, they enable Harvard to grant the same rights back to the authors. The individual open-access license grants Harvard exactly the same set of nonexclusive rights, for exactly the same purposes. In that sense, it gives non-faculty researchers the same benefits that the school-level policies give faculty.

Just as faculty may obtain waivers from their open-access license, those who sign the individual open-access license may also obtain waivers.

To sign the Individual Open-Access License, just sign our assistance authorization form.

The license works best when authors sign it before they sign publishing contracts. For that reason, and because it permits waivers for any given work, we encourage interested authors to sign the open-access license soon, or before they publish their next scholarly article.

Authors only need to sign the license once for the rest of their career at Harvard, not once per paper. It lasts as long as the author is affiliated with Harvard.


Q: Can my articles be used as the basis of derivative works by other authors?

Yes. Harvard may permit you and others to make derivative works based on the articles that fall under the open-access license, whether you are covered by a school-level policy or the voluntary individual open-access license. However, Harvard would only exercise this right with permission from the author and in order to advance the aims of the policy.

Harvard recognizes authors' interest in the integrity of their scholarly articles. If Harvard allows the display or distribution of any derivative work that modifies the substance of the original document (e.g., an abridgment), it will require that the derivative work include a citation, hyperlink or similar reference to the original document and that it appropriately identify the nature of the revision (e.g., "abridged from…").

As technology and modes of distributing and using scholarly content evolve, it may serve the interests of research and education for Harvard to adjust the derivative-work rights granted to the public. In any such decisions, the Office for Scholarly Communication will be guided by its Faculty Advisory Committee.

Q: Is the university acquiring ownership of my writing?

No. Authors still retain ownership and control of the copyright in their writings, subject only to Harvard's prior, nonexclusive license.

For non-faculty authors, the individual open-access license only covers authors who choose to sign it. Even then it is like the faculty licenses, and leaves ownership and control in the hands of the authors, subject only to the nonexclusive rights previously granted to Harvard.

Q: Will Harvard ever sell articles for profit or allow others to do so?

No. Harvard does not have the right to sell for a profit the articles under the license, and cannot grant this right to others. The same applies to a coursepack or book containing such articles.

Q: What if a journal publisher refuses to publish my article because of this prior license to Harvard?

You have a number of options, whether you are covered by the school-level open-access policies or the individual open-access license. You may:

  • Obtain a waiver of the license and let the publisher know that you have done so; or
  • Obtain an embargo to delay deposit of the work in DASH and let the publisher know you have done so; or
  • Work to persuade the publisher that it should accept Harvard's nonexclusive license in order to be able to publish your article; or finally,
  • Try to seek a different publisher. The Office for Scholarly Communication would be happy to help in the process of working with publishers or picking an option that works best for you.

We have not heard of a single case in which a journal has refused to publish an article merely because of the prior license to Harvard. This is because the waiver and embargo options offer complete protection to publishers who wish to take advantage of them.

No. This website provides information and resources to help faculty members and others understand the open-access policy and to assist in compliance, but does not provide individual legal advice. The Office for Scholarly Communication and its staff also are not able to provide individual legal advice. If you wish legal advice about your copyrights or individual situation, you should consult your own attorney.


Q: Should I include my article in DASH even if I have gotten a waiver for it?

Yes. If your article cannot be made publicly available because you obtained a waiver of the Harvard license, we encourage you to deposit a copy in DASH, Harvard's open-access repository. We will make it "dark". We will not make the text open access, but will store it for preservation purposes. We will provide open access to the metadata or bibliographic information, to facilitate indexing by search engines and public awareness of your article.

Even if you obtain a waiver, the publisher's agreement may provide sufficient rights to allow copies of your article to be made publicly available through the Harvard repository. You may also be able to negotiate these rights.

The publisher may ask that certain conditions be met, some of which the repository can accommodate (for example, an embargo period during which the article will not be made publicly available). Information about publishers' standard policies on open access is available from the SHERPA/RoMEO project (though Harvard has not verified the accuracy of that information).

Q: Should I include my article in DASH even if the work is not covered by the Harvard license?

Much of your work — for example, anything authored before the date an open-access policy was passed in your school or before you signed the individual open-access license — is not covered by the license to Harvard. In those cases, your right to reuse your own work is limited to the terms of the agreements you signed with your publishers. In most cases, those publishing agreements give you more extensive reuse rights for the accepted author manuscript than for the published version or version of record.

Hence, even when you are not allowed to distribute the published version, you may be able to make your accepted author manuscript available for download in DASH without violating the agreement with your publisher. Let us investigate this for you and we'll make a recommendation.

Q: What is a dark deposit?

A dark deposit is a work in DASH whose full text is not open access, even when information about the work (citation, abstract, etc.) is open access. While they are not publicly accessible, dark deposits benefit authors by preserving their scholarship longterm. (Metadata associated with these deposits, however, is publicly accessible so that authors' scholarly records are discoverable.)

We try to minimize dark deposits, and make all DASH deposits open access. But we make deposits dark in two circumstances:

  1. When the author has requested an embargo, and
  2. When we don't have rights to provide open access to the version(s) available to us.

In the first case, we make the work dark during the embargo period, and open access when the embargo expires.

In the second case, we might lack the relevant rights for a number of reasons:

Regardless of the cause, we will make a version of the work open access if or when we obtain the rights to do so.

In general, when a work is subject to a Harvard open-access policy, we have nonexclusive rights to provide open access to the accepted author manuscript (AAM), and not the version of record (VOR). If the author submits the VOR to DASH, either we hold it or make it dark until we can obtain the AAM or until we obtain permission to distribute the VOR.

Q: I've already published a large number of articles. What's the easiest way to get all of them into DASH?

The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) offers a service called CV Scraping in which we deposit your past articles retroactively into DASH. Learn more about this free service, including how to request a CV Scrape.


Q: What is an author addendum?

An author addendum is a proposed modification of a publishing contract. If accepted by the publisher, it modifies the contract, for example, in order to take proper account of the Harvard open-access license or to allow author to retain rights that would otherwise have been transferred to the publisher.

Here is a sample addendum developed specifically to deal with the prior license granted to Harvard.

Q: How do I use an author addendum?

Complete an appropriate form of addendum, sign and date the form, add a statement to the publisher's agreement making it subject to the addendum, and attach the addendum to the publisher's agreement. We recommend the addendum generator to authors subject to school-level policies or the individual open-access license.

If you have questions about how to use the addendum generator, contact the Office for Scholarly Communication.

Q: What if my article has co-authors?

Even if you are not the corresponding author, you may still decide to use the addendum with the publisher's agreement so that the terms of the agreement will not be in conflict with the license granted to Harvard. You can use the addendum generator to create an addendum for the article that may be used by your corresponding co-author.

Q: What if the journal publisher refuses to accept my addendum or wants to negotiate it?

You have a number of options. Whether you are covered by the school-level policies or the individual open-access license, you may obtain a waiver of the license granted to Harvard.

Alternatively, you can work to persuade the publisher that it should accept Harvard's non-exclusive license in order to be able to publish your article, or you may seek a different publisher. You can consult with the Office for Scholarly Communication for help in the process of working with publishers and addressing their specific concerns.

Q: What if a publisher tells me I don't need the addendum because the publisher's agreement already permits immediate posting of the article in an institutional open-access repository?

It may still be a good idea to use the addendum. The nonexclusive license to Harvard enables the university to allow you and others to make various beneficial uses of the article, which may be in conflict with provisions of the publication agreement. To avoid a conflicting transfer of copyright to the publisher and to protect yourself from breach of contract, you may still want to attach an addendum.

If the publisher's agreement, however, is wholly consistent with Harvard's license, you would not need to use the addendum.