Options for Open-Access Publishing

Three choices are now available for authors

9 September 2013
Gianlucca Setti Open Access Photo: IEEE

IEEE has always believed an important part of its mission is to make its scholarly articles widely available. So we are proud that more than 6200 academic institutions, companies, and government agencies around the globe now have access to our publications through the IEEE Xplore Digital Library—an increase of almost 60 percent in the past five years. And with the concept of open-access publishing growing in popularity, IEEE is supporting the wishes of its authors by adding the open-access option for them and the institutions funding their work.

This year IEEE introduced a three-part open-access program. First, it offers an open-access option in all its traditional transactions and journals, making them hybrids of paid subscriptions and open access. Second, several IEEE societies have created open-access-only publications in specific areas (so-called topical journals). Finally, in May, the open-access megajournal IEEE Access was launched to attract interdisciplinary, applications-oriented articles across all of IEEE’s fields of interest. In all three cases authors, or their funding organizations, pay article processing fees so that all readers have immediate access to their articles for free.


An equally important principle for IEEE is that its publishing program operates in a financial manner that is as fair as possible to both authors and readers yet is also completely sustainable. This is essential if IEEE is to continue to provide an impartial forum for the discussion of ideas, independent of influence by any sponsor or benefactor. Providing modern publishing services—from the infrastructure that supports the thousands of unselfish volunteers in the fundamental peer-review and editorial processes to convenient online delivery—is not inexpensive, however. So IEEE’s Publication Services and Products Board (PSPB) is continually re­evaluating its policies and operating practices to provide world-class scientific publications at a self-sustaining and reasonable cost.

Maintaining this balance has driven the need for imposing article processing charges (APCs) for authors wishing to make their articles available via open access. The APCs cover the expense of several value-added steps—from copyediting and page formatting to reference checking, online posting, and XML conversion. Authors who pay the charges can refer anyone to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, where readers can obtain for free the final published version of the open-access article in PDF format or read the HTML version online.

An important criticism of open access is that it favors authors with greater financial means over authors who are forced, for budgetary reasons, to opt for the traditional reader-pays model. To alleviate this concern and give all authors a fair chance to disseminate the results of their activities, IEEE follows two paths.

First, in the spirit of making its articles widely available, IEEE continues to allow authors to post their final accepted manuscripts on their personal or their employers' websites, thus maintaining its status as a “green open-access” publisher. Second, IEEE will waive open-access article charges for authors who must publish an open-access paper but who lack the financial means to do so. Such authors can apply to the editor of the journal and explain the nature of their financial hardship.


To ensure appropriate reuse of its articles, IEEE has developed and is making available a revised version of its copyright transfer form. It still asks authors to transfer copyright, but in return it promises to make the article freely available and makes clear the many ways readers are permitted to use the article. New permissions will allow researchers to use articles as part of data- or text-mining experiments.

These changes allow, in particular, IEEE to fight plagiarism on the author’s behalf. They are also meant to deter others from creating derivative commercial products from articles the author paid IEEE to publish as open access. This is important because, unfortunately, there are reports of disreputable publishers republishing articles from open-access journals in order to give their own new publications the credibility to attract authors. These are two areas where IEEE is better equipped than authors to monitor systematically for inappropriate activity and take corrective action.

To take into account all possible author preferences as well as the requirements of specific funders and agencies, PSPB has also approved the possibility of publishing open-access articles under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Under it, users are free to share, copy, distribute, and transmit the work and to remix and make commercial use of it. The authors retain copyright (and the need to enforce it) while the users must simply properly attribute the work.

The world of open access is rapidly evolving. In addition to the activities of publishers like IEEE, several government bodies and private institutions that fund research direct that articles resulting from their research grants pass to open access after an embargo period.

The IEEE PSPB, along with its professional publishing staff, is constantly evaluating the changing environment and will make adjustments as necessary.

We on the IEEE PSPB are committed to providing choices that make sense to authors, readers in the technology community, and IEEE. Through such actions, we can ensure that IEEE’s publishing program continues to contribute in the best possible way to IEEE’s goal of advancing technology for humanity.

Setti is vice president, IEEE Publication Services and Products.

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