New Guide on Openness is Released

PLOS, SPARC, and OASPA would like to thank everyone who contributed during the open review process of the Open Access Spectrum guide. In preparation for Open Access Week (October 22-28), the final version is being issued today so that people can download and print it for their use next week and beyond. This resource outlines the core components of open access (e.g., reader rights, reuse rights, copyrights, author posting rights, etc.) across the continuum from “open access” to “restricted access”.  Its aim is to help authors make informed decisions on where to publish based on journal policies. It also provides a resource for funders and other organizations to help establish criteria for the level of Open Access required for their policies and mandates.

Ultimately, the conversation must shift from “Is It Open Access?” to “HowOpenIsIt?” The phrase “HowOpenIsIt?” will be used for a family of offerings to foster and promote open access in research communications.  The Open Access Spectrum is our first program with more to come. Today’s content also includes an FAQ and a Chinese translation (Spanish translation coming soon).

The public comment period, which lasted two weeks, generated 60 responses from 11 countries. We received input from publishers, librarians, authors, editors, and research funders, among others. Of the 26 entries in the draft table, 18 were edited and improved as a result of this feedback. The most notable change was an additional entry to the “Copyrights” category. The draft version included four definitions along the Open Access Spectrum. The final version added a fifth: Publisher holds copyright, with some allowances for author and reader reuse of published version.

We deeply appreciate all the suggestions that we received. Your feedback provided greater clarity and precision to the final document.


  1. says

    I consider the Open Access Spectrum (OAS) to be a very useful tool. It shows 6 dimensions of Open Access (OA) in one table.

    The Open Access Spectrum (OAS) is online now for more than one year. My impression is that OA publishers have not applied it a lot. You hardly see it on the „AboutUs“ or „OpenAccess“ page of OA publishers. Is the initiative dead?

    The OAS is published on the web site of the Public Library of Science (PLOS). PLOS is a “nonprofit publisher” (, nevertheless asking for substantial publication fees ( As such PLOS is a competitor among OA publishers. It would have made much sense to publish the OAS on a neutral web site. Among the 3 organizations that created the OAS, I would consider OASPA and SPARC “neutral” organizations. So, why was the OAS published on PLOS’s web site? Could this be the reason other publishers avoid to refer to the OAS?

    The OAS answers FAQ (, but where can you ask?

    This blog may be a suitable place to openly ask questions about the OAS:

    Dimension 5: Automatic Posting. If a journal is fully open on Reader Rights – “Free readership rights to all articles immediately upon publication” – (that’s normal for Gold OA), why is it important in addition to “make copies of articles automatically available in trusted third-party repositories (e.g. PubMed Central) immediately upon publication”?

    When is a repository “trusted”? There may be disciplines that do not have a prominent central repository! The journal may be indexed in the DOAJ ( DOAJ is only providing a link to the publisher’s copy of the article. Would this also qualify? If separate copies (not only links) are required, is “Automatic Posting” then really asking for an archiving strategy?

    Dimension 6: Machine Readability. You need to read several times to understand the subtle difference between categories. Maybe here is room for more straight forward definitions.

    The two highest categories ask for machine readability of supplementary data. Is Dimension 6 demanding supplementary data? As Dimension 6 is primarily about Machine Readability, I can only conclude that it means “supplementary data needs to be machine readable, if it exists”. Correct?

    The highest category is asking for “provided in community machine-readable standard formats through a community standard API or protocol”, whereas the second highest category is only asking for “crawled or accessed through a community standard API or protocol”. So, is “provided” better than “crawled or accessed”? What about the addition of “standard formats” to the highest category? Does this apply only to the supplementary data? What are the standard formats of supplementary data?

    We may keep things simple and say the highest category is reached if:
    a) the journal is indexed in DOAJ, because DOAJ supports OAI-PMH feeds for both journals and articles ( or
    b) the journal is providing HTML “meta” tags according to Google Scholar’s requirements ( in the articles HTML version or in a HTML file related to the article’s PDF version or
    c) the journal is following any other equivalent strategy.

    Proposal: NEW Dimension 7: Review Process. Publishers are often criticized for their review process. The review process is traditionally nontransparent. Publishers are just judged on their “reputation”. OA publishing could be especially suited to be at the forefront of making the review process more open and transparent, so that authors can base their selection of a journal/publisher on facts. Along this line, the OAS could include a “Dimension 7: Review Process” and could show various forms of increased openness of the review process. See:

    The inclusion of a new dimension would mean a change to the OAS. This could be felt as being disruptive. On the other hand, introducing more and more additional scales over time would be confusing. After all, the very good approach of the OAS is to unify different aspects of OA publishing in one table.

    • says

      On an even closer look:
      Dimension 5: Automatic Posting.

      This dimension has several Sub Dimensions:

      a) Embargo Period: OA can be Gold OA (journals) and Green OA (self-archiving). Green OA can have embargo periods. The OAS tries to rank Green OA with embargo periods (Delayed OA) of 12 month, 6 month, and immediate posting. This Sub Dimension does not apply to Gold OA, because Gold OA is “immediate” by definition!

      b) Self or Automatic Postings: Green OA can work with self-archiving (this is what the BOAI had in mind) and with the publisher’s “automatic” postings. The OAS demands automatic posting. Is self-archiving also valued highly by the OAS? Or is self-archiving considered “closed access”?

      c) Type of Repository: According to Dimension 5, Automatic Posting is in any case required in a “trusted” digital repository. Definition: “A trusted digital repository is one whose mission is to provide reliable, long-term access to managed digital resources to its designated community, now and in the future.” (Research Libraries Group, 2002. Trusted Digital Repositories: Attributes and Responsibilities. Automatic posting (harvesting?) to a reputable “light archive“ or “dark archive” will also NOT count, because they do NOT provide the digital resources now (only upon unavailability or a trigger event). What kind of discipline independent and internationally available archiving is available to be graded anything better than “closed access“ on the OAS? (KB’s e-Depot would qualify, but it does not allow for new entrants in 2014.) Remedy: Define and allow repositories with different “trust levels” on the grid!

      d) Quality Check by Repository: The OAS makes reference to PubMed Central. For a complete journal content uploading (in contrast to single paper uploading) PubMed Central writes: „A journal will be deemed to be eligible for inclusion in PMC if … it conforms to the scientific quality criteria …“ ( With the example of PubMed Central in the OAS, the question arises: Is the OAS asking for inclusion in a repository doing some kind of quality check on the journal? Remedy: Quality is different from Openness and should not be considered in the OAS!

      Checking for 3 or 4 (sub) dimensions in one column of the OAS may lead to some conflicts when a journal or a publisher is positioned on the grid.

      A remedy would be to specify 3 columns for each Sub Dimension (a, b, c) of Dimension 5. It should be possible to declare a Sub Dimension inappropriate for a certain kind of OA publishing (see a).

      The OAS is a great opportunity to structure a journal/publisher evaluation, but this seems to have more aspects than foreseen at first glance.

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