Scholarly Communication

On passing an open access policy at Florida State University

From outreach to implementation

Devin Soper is scholarly communication librarian at Florida State University, email:

In February 2016, the Florida State University (FSU) Faculty Senate passed an institutional Open Access (OA) Policy by unanimous vote,1 following the lead of many public and private universities across the United States. This was the culmination of many years of outreach and advocacy by OA champions at FSU, with a diverse, talented team of faculty and librarians making significant contributions along the way. This was also just one instance of a growing trend across North America and globally, with impressive growth in the number of OA policies and mandates adopted by research organizations and funders over the past decade. The adoption of an OA policy still presents many challenges with respect to policy compliance,2 and there are open questions about the long-term impact of different OA policy requirements and implementation models.3 At the same time, OA policy adoption remains an important goal for many institutions, a symbolic affirmation of faculty support for the principles of OA. An OA policy can help an institution raise the profile of its institutional repository (IR), invigorate outreach efforts and content recruitment, and, in the case of Harvard Model policies, safeguard the author rights of its faculty.4

Leaving aside the challenges and open questions for a moment, I’d like to share a little bit about the road to OA policy adoption and implementation at FSU. By reflecting on some of the factors that paved the way to our successful vote, as well as the nature of the work that followed, my hope is that our experience might help or encourage those who are considering or working toward adopting a policy at their own institutions.


Outreach and advocacy are the bread and butter of any effort to pass an OA policy, and remain critically important even after a policy has been adopted. There is a wealth of literature on successful outreach strategies, including the concise, bulleted wisdom distilled in the Harvard Open Access Project wiki,5 a variety of in-depth case studies,6 and a comprehensive cross-institutional survey.7

At FSU, OA policy outreach efforts date back at least to 2010, when Micah Vandegrift led a team of faculty and librarians to draft and advocate for a Faculty Senate OA Resolution, which was adopted by unanimous vote in October 2011. The resolution was mild by design: purposely intended to raise awareness and whet the appetite for OA at FSU, it was the opening act of a longer play that was always building toward the adoption of a more fulsome rights-retention policy. The resolution was followed by five years of strategic OA outreach and advocacy, spurred largely by the establishment of a strong scholarly communication program at FSU Libraries.8 Our Faculty Senate task force on scholarly communication also continued to meet annually, working on policy development and outreach materials while the university awaited the appointment of a new provost.

In light of this strong foundation, when it came time to mount a final charge in the fall of 2015, we saw no need for a campus-wide outreach initiative, deciding instead to focus on engaging with key individuals and groups, and calling on our many faculty champions to help galvanize their colleagues. We made sure to present and clear the policy with FSU’s Faculty Senate Library and Steering Committees, provost, legal counsel, and Faculty Union Executive Committee, and we sent targeted outreach emails to individual faculty senators and longtime supporters of OA on campus.

When the day of the vote arrived, we felt confident that almost everyone in the room had been apprised of the proposed policy and given all the information they needed to make a decision. In the end, while the success of our initiative owed much to the strong background of OA advocacy on our campus, it all came down to a few key meetings with the main stakeholders, and to the crucial moment when we took the stage to present the policy to Senate.

Data adapted from HOAP list of Harvard-model, rights-retention OA policies.

Data adapted from HOAP list of Harvard-model, rights-retention OA policies. ROARMAP:

Community-driven momentum

Throughout our efforts to adopt and implement a policy, we benefitted immensely from the scores of institutions that have passed campus OA policies since 2008. These policies have been around for a while, and the pioneers have shared a rich trove of information on how they made it happen and how they plan to make it work.9 The community of OA policy institutions has expanded to include all kinds of schools, with steady growth in the number of schools with rights-retention policies specifically, and even stronger growth in OA policy adoption rates across the United States more generally.10

Important to mention is the Coalition of OA Policy Institutions (COAPI), which has 94 members to date and is dedicated to sharing information and expertise to support institutions at all stages of OA policy development and implementation.11

FSU has been a COAPI member since 2012, and the generous support of our fellow members has been invaluable, providing expert guidance on many aspects of our work to adopt and now implement a policy. In September 2016, COAPI launched a public toolkit of OA policy resources,12 which includes a wealth of reusable materials and documentation, making it easier than ever for interested institutions to bootstrap their own OA policy initiatives. The sheer size of the OA policy community can itself be an effective talking point when promoting a policy, with the growing list of institutional policies providing ample precedent and a range of peer and aspirational comparators —another recurring theme during our final push to pass a policy at FSU.

And, of course, all of this is playing out in the midst of federal public access policies coming into force, at once raising awareness across the board and spurring unprecedented institutional interest in public access compliance. This momentum at the federal level also feeds nicely into efforts to promote and implement campus OA policies, which provide an opportunity to develop public access compliance as a service, encouraging faculty to submit their accepted manuscripts to the IR and have the library take care of depositing in funder-specified repositories, as needed.

Policy implementation

The year following the adoption of our policy was full of exciting projects, partnerships, and accomplishments that contributed to the growth of our repository services. Many of these developments would not have been possible without the adoption of our policy, and the others would not have been accomplished in such a short period of time without the impetus of enacting our implementation plan. The scope of this column precludes a detailed discussion of our policy implementation efforts, but here are the highlights:

  • formation of a new faculty advisory board to ensure ongoing faculty oversight of implementation efforts;
  • ongoing outreach and promotion, including visits to department meetings, video interviews with faculty champions, and news items in campus communication channels;
  • updating legal documentation, including author deposit agreements, repository legal agreements, copyright transfer addendum, and policy waiver letter;
  • launching a new website to house policy-related information and resources;13
  • collaboration with FSU’s Office of Research on a complementary university policy on public access to research publications (adopted July 2016);14
  • notifying more than 500 academic publishers to strengthen the license granted to FSU by our faculty, and also to give publishers the opportunity to adapt their own policies;
  • expanding our team to handle increased faculty deposits, culminating in the recruitment of a new repository specialist in February 2017;
  • collaboration with FSU’s Office of Faculty Development and Advancement on web services that enable faculty to initiate IR deposits directly from their faculty CV system;
  • developing workflows to harvest bibliographic information for FSU-authored articles, automatically check publishers’ article-sharing policies, and either ingest final versions or solicit accepted manuscripts per terms of applicable policies;15 and
  • automated harvesting of article manuscripts available in funder repositories, such as PubMed Central.

Although these projects were couched in terms of OA policy implementation, they all contributed to our libraries’ longstanding goals of increasing faculty awareness and use of our repository services. In the 12 months following the adoption of the policy, the number of full-text articles added to our repository (626) surpassed the total number of articles added prior to the policy (406) —a 54% increase in the total collection and a 364% increase over the average annual deposit rate of 172 articles.

This growth is still just a drop in the bucket. According to data from FSU’s faculty CV system, our faculty published 2,354 articles in 2016, so the 626 articles added to our repository in the year following policy adoption represents a deposit rate of approximately 27%. That said, it is still early days yet, and we are confident that our deposit rate will continue to improve once we fully operationalize the workflows we have developed to identify, harvest, and solicit articles at scale.


In the United States, where institutional OA policies typically have no compliance mechanisms and are not linked to the research evaluation process (the Liège model),16 merely adopting a policy is unlikely to dramatically increase article deposit rates, as faculty have little more incentive to comply than authors at schools without policies. When policy adoption is followed by concerted efforts to support successful implementation, however, our experience suggests that OA policy initiatives can significantly increase deposit rates and lead to a variety of other positive outcomes.

Although many of the initiatives that contributed to our increased deposit rate could have been undertaken in the absence of a policy, the adoption of our policy provided a strong impetus to advance these initiatives in a short period of time, in addition to giving us previously unprecedented access to campus-wide communication channels, attracting interest in collaboration from campus partners, and securing much-needed resources to grow our repository services.

Perhaps the most significant of these policy-dependent outcomes is the license granted by our faculty that permits FSU to exercise the copyright in their articles, which was an important enabling factor in the development of our new deposit workflows, and which presents an opportunity for our institution to play a more active role in safeguarding the author rights of its faculty in future.

Some might question whether these benefits are worthwhile, given the time required to develop, promote, and implement a policy. In our experience at FSU, however, the time commitment for policy development and promotion was far from onerous, and our implementation efforts merely accelerated and extended work we were already doing to grow our repository services.

All of which brings me back to my main point, that those in the midst of or even just interested in pursuing campus OA policy adoption should take heart: the path is smoother now than it was for the pioneers, there’s a strong community there to support you, and, with the momentum in the OA policy space more generally, the timing could hardly be better.


  1. Full text of policy available at
  2. Shan Sutton, “Compliance Considerations as Institutional Open Access Policies Grow,” In The Open (blog), May 9, 2016,
  3. Alma Swan, Yassine Gargouri, Megan Hunt, and Stevan Harnad, “Open Access Policy: Numbers, Analysis, Effectiveness,” in Pasteur4OA Work Package 3 report: Open Access policies,
  4. Harvard Model Open Access Policy:
  5. Harvard Open Access Project wiki,
  6. List of relevant case studies available at
  7. Christine Fruin and Shan Sutton, “Strategies for Success: Open Access Policies at North American Educational Institutions,” College & Research Libraries 77 (2016).
  8. Micah Vandegrift and Gloria Colvin, “Relational Communications: Developing Key Connections,” College & Research Libraries News 73, no. 7 (2012),
  9. COAPI toolkit,
  10. See Suzanne A. Kriegsman and Ellen Finnie Duranceau, “Campus Open-Access Policy Implementation Models and Implications for IR Services,” in Making Institutional Repositories Work (Purdue University Press, 2015),
  11. ROARMAP, U.S. Policies by Quarter:
  12. See
  13. More information on COAPI is available at
  14. Full text of policy available at
  15. See Aaron Retteen, “Automagical Repository Harvesting,” March 9, 2017,
  16. Bernard Rentier, “The Liège ORBi Model: Mandatory Policy without Rights Retention but Linked to Assessment Processes,” November 8, 2011,
Copyright Devin Soper

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