Using Open Access to Meet Public Access Requirements

Open Access (OA) is not the same as Public Access (PA). Unlike OA, which can be accomplished through a variety of platforms and is voluntary, the PA mandate requires awardees to add papers derived from grants to their funders’ repositories within one year of publication. But that doesn’t mean that OA papers can never play a role in the PA process. Currently, two federal agencies have made it possible for researchers to meet the PA requirement through the use of open access articles.

Department of Energy E-link Submission Process

The DOE allows awardees to submit links to OA articles through their E-link submission system instead of the author accepted version. This exception requires that the paper is peer reviewed and currently available on an open access site or hybrid journal.



Keep in mind that OA “archives” (e.g., arXiv) do not generally provide peer review of pre-print papers uploaded to their repository. Awardees or authors cannot use these links to meet the PA requirement.


The Smithsonian goes further than the DOE by accepting OA journal as equal to their own repository. According to the Smithsonian’s 2015 public access plan, “[p]ublication of FFRM (federally funded research materials) in an established open access journal or periodical that makes the final publication available immediately, without embargo, is considered compliant under this plan.” Authors or awardees only need to include the link to the peer reviewed OA paper to meet the PA requirement.

Finally, authors should keep in mind that all federal agencies accept the published versions of articles where the authors have clear copyright ownership. One of the benefits of OA platforms is that they typically allow authors to retain ownership of their work, making most OA articles appropriate for submission as long as they are peer-reviewed and submitted in an allowable format.