Campus Open Access Fund FAQ

Open Access

For Administrators
For Authors
For Publishers


1. What is Open Access?

Open Access is the free, immediate, online availability of high-quality, peer-reviewed research results. Open Access also requires that results are available to use and re-use in new and innovative ways. SPARC supports the Budapest Open Access Initiative definition. For resources and background on Open Access, visit here.

2. What is an open-access fund?

An open-access fund is a pool of money set aside by an institution or other research-sponsoring entity specifically to defray or cover processing fees for articles published by members of the institution in open-access journals. While open-access funds are administered in a variety of fashions with a wide array of policy distinctions, they share a common goal of encouraging researchers to make their work open to the public.

For administrators

1. Why might my institution start an open-access fund?

Each year a smaller percentage of all scholarly publications is available to researchers because of increasing subscription prices and decreasing library budgets, even though the production and quantity of scholarly information is growing exponentially. Faculty members traditionally give away their copyrighted work to publishers and the academy often buys back the content at premium prices. Open-access funds can improve access to research and accelerate the online availability of peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journal articles.

2. How do faculty members feel about these issues?

Faculty members are increasingly exercising their stake in ensuring both the speed and the reach of research dissemination, by publishing in open-access journals, depositing in open-access repositories, retaining their copyrights, and by pursuing campus-wide policies for open-access to institutional research outputs. (For more information, see here). The creation of an open-access fund offers support to faculty members poised to publish in OA journals, and establishes a dialogue with all of your institution’s authors to better assess their specific interests and concerns, and to direct financial resources appropriately.

3. My institution is considering the creation of an open-access fund. What guidance can SPARC provide?

The open-access publishing funds guide provides a wealth of resources for prospective administrators of open-access funds. In addition, SPARC can connect you with a panel of experts who have experience in creating and managing open-access funds at a variety of institutions.

4. What types of charges should an open-access fund cover? Who within my institution should be eligible for these funds?

There are no “right” answers to these questions. As the matrix of existing policies indicates, terms differ across institutions. Some schools elect to cover only submission fees to fully open-access journals, while others may also reimburse, in part or whole, submissions to traditional subscription-based journals that offer an open-access publishing option. The open-access publishing funds guide provides a checklist of issues to consider when exploring an open-access fund policy.

5. Doesn’t covering the publication fees to traditional subscription-based journals that offer an open-access publishing option amount to double payment?

In many cases, the unfortunate answer is yes. Only a handful of publishers have agreed to reduce their subscription fees commensurate with the money they collect from their open-access option. You will need to decide whether you feel you can contribute to this issue most effectively by including or excluding these types of journals from Fund eligibility.

6. Does spending money on a single author’s publishing take away from the broader acquisition funding of my institution?

Open-access funds originate and are managed differently at each institution. They typically exist as part of a larger campaign to raise awareness to the growing interest in wider research dissemination and open-access publishing. Open Access is one of the first viable access models that has the capacity to substantially impact the current dynamics and economics of scholarly publishing. Open-access funding, as it is made more broadly available by research institutions and by other public and private research funders, will broaden awareness of the movement away from barriers to research access, such as high subscription costs, and toward taking full advantage of the opportunities created by the Internet.

7. My institution is a small one, with a modest research output. Is an open-access fund relevant to me?

Faculty at smaller institutions may have fewer alternatives to subsidize their publication charges, so open-access funds may be an important opportunity for authorship for this audience. Libraries at smaller institutions will also have an important stake in ensuring access to the research products of their institution – both locally and beyond. There are very few institutions of any size that are unaffected by the economics of the current scholarly publishing system. The collective market power of smaller institutions is such that their establishment of open-access funds could dramatically impact these economics.

For authors

1. How do I know if my institution has an open-access fund for its authors? If my institution does not have an open-access fund, with whom should I speak to encourage the creation of one?

Most open-access funds are managed by the library. You can enquire with your subject liaison or the head of your library. If they indicate that your institution does not yet have an open-access fund, encourage them to visit this resource page to learn more about starting one. A list of open-access funds is also available at

2. If my institution were to have an open-access fund, how does the reimbursement/payment process typically work?

Often the library will reimburse once the article has been accepted for publication and the author has been invoiced for the submission fee, but institutional policies vary. In addition, your institution may have specific policies regarding the extent of fee coverage (e.g., does the policy cover submission fees, page charges, color image fees, reprint fees, etc.). As a general rule, itemized invoices are helpful. Check with your program administrator before you submit your manuscript so you have a clear sense of what charges the open-access fund does and does not cover.

3. To what journals can I submit under this policy?

With the caveat that institutional policies vary, most open-access funds are designed to be applied to fully open-access journals (i.e., publications that deliver free, immediate, online access and no subscription fees) and/or traditional subscription-based journals that offer an open-access publishing option. In the latter instance, a number of commercial publishers allow their authors to pay an up-front fee that “unlocks” their articles. In this manner, anyone can read the article free of charge. Note that some publishers that offer this type of unlocking do not ascribe full reuse and copy rights to authors. Authors are advised to read publisher agreements carefully.

4. Where can I find a list of open-access journals to which I might apply these funds?

The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a comprehensive list of publications that are fully Open Access. The SHERPA Project documents publishers that allow authors to deposit their articles immediately in open-access repositories upon payment of a fee.

5. If I publish my paper with the assistance of my institutions open-access fund, am I restricted from posting it elsewhere on the Web?

While each institution sets its own policies, there are no known instances – when this document was compiled – in which acceptance of open-access fund assistance limits an author from posting his or her work in an institutional or disciplinary repository, personal page, and so forth.

For publishers

1. How does the proliferation of open-access funds affect subscription-based journal publishers?

Open-access funds offer publishers a subsidized opportunity to experiment with a different business model. They provide explicit support for open-access publishing outlets, setting aside specific funds to encourage both authors and publishers to investigate the benefits of open-access publishing without having to draw from their own respective pockets. For publishers concerned with the long-term sustainability of the current scholarly publishing model and, more specifically, their own financial viability in a world of increasing competition for institutional dollars, open-access funds offer a safety net in the exploration of alternative models.

2. How can publishers delivering open-access encourage the creation of open-access funds?

Many contributors to open-access journals would welcome the establishment of alternative funding sources such as open-access funds. Talk to your authors about the experiences of institutions detailed on this resource page, and encourage them to speak with their libraries about the prospects and process for creating local open-access funds.

Learn more about our work