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Scholarly Communication: Self-Archiving


What is Self-Archiving?

Self-archiving is a strategy used by authors to make their scholarly works available on the open web--to provide open access. In this context, the contents are usually journal articles, conference or technical reports, theses and dissertations, or data sets. A scholarly work is self-archived if it is posted to a personal or professional web site, deposited in an institutional repository, or contributed by the author to a disciplinary archive such as the Social Science Research Network (SSRN), arXiv, or PubMed Central. Depending on the terms in the publishing contract, these forms of self-archiving may or may not be permitted; authors are often not aware that they may have signed an agreement prohibiting these forms of distribution. Some authors agreements permit certain forms of self-archiving, but not others: for example, they may permit a pre-peer reviewed copy to be made available, but prohibit distribution of the final, publishers PDF. Sometimes they impose an embargo period, that is: the work can be archived by the author in an open access system (see discussion of three such modes below), but only after a period of time has elapsed. The most common embargo periods are 6 months and 12 months, but there is some variation by publisher. The SHERPA/RoMEO project houses a database of publisher and journal policies that will aid authors seeking to understand their journal's self-archiving policies.


Personal Websites

Many authors, including many faculty at Northwestern, have professional web pages that describe their research interests and recent publications. Authors often wish to make electronic copies of these publications available for direct download. Personal or professional web pages serve many valuable purposes: they provide information about faculty expertise to the university, the higher education community, and members of the press. They are valuable recruiting tools for  students and for new faculty hires. They help potential collaborators to find each other. They share the results of important research with members of the general public.


Subject Repositories

Some authors deposit working or final versions of their papers in disciplinary or subject repositories, where it may be more readily found by researchers with similar interests. Examples of subject repositories include arXiv, the Social Science Research Network, and PubMed Central. A more complete list of disciplinary repositories is maintained at the Open Access Directory wiki.


Institutional Repositories

Many institutions of higher education maintain repositories to house the output of their own faculty and researchers. These institutions are making a commitment to providing stable, long-term access to these important works, and attempt to create a comprehensive picture of the research output of their scholars. Northwestern does not yet have an institutional repository, although work and discussions about establishing one are underway.



Self-Archiving FAQ
An extensive self-archiving FAQ resource presented by E-Prints, a digital repository software.


An international database dedicated to providing publisher copyright and self-archiving policies. 


The Directory of Open Access Repositories service provides a quality-assured listing of open access repositories around the world.

Digital Scholarship Services

Northwestern University Libraries


John Dorr
Head, Digital Scholarship Services

Cunera Buys
Data Management Librarian

Josh Honn
Digital Humanities Librarian

Liz Hamilton
Copyright Librarian