Self Archive Already!

If you are an academic who has published in non-open access peer-review journals and haven’t yet taken any steps to make those articles available for free on the internet, you are doing it wrong. Doing so will ensure that more people read and cite your work. It will also make that work available to people who might otherwise not have access. And it is perfectly legal.*

There are a number of options for doing so. The best would be if your university or academic association has an official repository devoted to archiving such work. The AAA is currently working with SSRN to provide such a service, so you might try there. But you don’t need to be so official about it. You can simply host PDF files on your own website, or take advantage of any number of commercial services. I see a lot of people now using, Mendeley, or Zotero. Google Drive and Dropbox are also options, although you will want to have some kind of website where these links are advertised. Maybe Google Sites or WordPress? The list of options is endless, and it doesn’t really matter which you use – just get your stuff online!

In short, there is no excuse for not posting your own articles online, and if you see an academic who isn’t doing so you should take the time to let them know. A lot of scholars simply don’t know how to host their own website or use services like — why not help them? Yes, in an ideal world journals would all be open access, but till that happens, there is no reason you can’t take steps to liberate your own work (and that of your colleagues).

  • While almost all academic journals allow some form of self-archiving, they do differ in the details. Some allow a copy of the final article as it appears on the journal website, while others only allow you to post an uncorrected pre-print. To see what is allowed for particular journals, make use of the excellent RoMEO database. And don’t worry if you are confused. I encourage people to err on the side of openness. If you accidentally make a mistake you probably won’t have FBI agents banging down your doors. You are more likely to simply get an email asking you to remove the PDF from your website.

18 thoughts on “Self Archive Already!

  1. Good call, Kerim! Every PopAnth article suggests further reading, but I am frustrated by how much I keep having to link to closed sources. The more anthropologists make their work open access, the more we can publicize their work – and their websites or profiles, if that’s where they’ve put it!

  2. I agree completely. Why do we do research and publish it? To hide it from others? To be exclusive by keeping it in esoteric places? To make it hard for colleagues and others to find our results? This is crazy. is getting more use and papers posted there turn up well in Google searches. They are easy to post, but the postings look sloppy and the format of the uploads is terrible (Scribd). And then people too often post the titles of papers without posting the papers. Huh???? If you want to post a CV, then post a CV. But why post the titles but not the actual papers? This also is crazy.

    Selected Works by Berkeley Electronic Press ( has the best-looking and most professional interface, and papers are very nicely organized by categories that you design yourself. They send around download stats each month.I find that I get more downloads here for my Spanish-language papers than my English language papers, which means there must be good visibility in Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries.

    But I still find the most convenient thing is to just throw papers up on my own funky website. As Admiral Farragut once said, “Damn the publishing agreements, full downloads ahead!”

  3. Thank you for this post and encouragement, Kerim. I need to do this myself. One thing I would like to add: If you post the pre-published paper, please include citation information. Many times I’ve downloaded papers with no dates or information as to where (if?) they’ve been published. (This goes for gray literature as well. I keep asking, how can reports get published without dates??)

  4. As an OA publisher, and a librarian, I would urge my fellow scholars to read up on this issue more (the Jason Baird Jackson interviews are a great place to start), then apply the same professional conduct you demand in the classroom.

    Before you self-archive, be sure a) you follow copyright (we’re the good guys, remember..?), and b) consider the impact on the journal itself.

    Why should I care about the journal you ask..? Well, you clearly valued it when you submitted your paper, so why diss it now. Further, if the journal is a society publication, by providing a copy outside of normal distribution channels, you may be undermining your own association.

    For example, if you are an AAA member and have published in an AAA journal, and you provide your own personal copy of your article, instead of encouraging (note, I said encouraging) people to use AnthroSource first, you are actually undermining the revenue that your association gets from Wiley-Blackwell.

    So if you encourage your 20 or 50 or 200 students to use your personal copy of an article for a class you are teaching, you are hurting all of us in the process if the students can read the article for free through the library subscription.

    It’s holiday time in the US, so perhaps you can consider this a bit like drinking or driving responsibly. Let’s all work to make sure our articles are as freely and widely accessible as possible, and not take the quick way out of just pirating our own work for the sake of expediency.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  5. Yes, I strongly encourage people to consider the impact of self-archiving on journals. My hope is that the process will make the current business model untenable and force the AAA to go to open access.

    Less flippantly. Students at schools with free access are not our only audience, nor should they be.

  6. Albion, we already have it – SSRN. And, it’s currently the number one repository in the world. If you need any help posting, please call 877-SSRNhelp. Thanks, Gregg.

  7. Speaking of the SSRN, I can’t figure out what all those pseudo-journals are. Can someone explain these things??

  8. I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve read my understanding of the business model is this:

    Publishers make the vast majority of the money they earn from journals by selling access rights to university libraries and similarly large institutions. University libraries pay huge sums to give free access to their students and staff. Individuals rarely pay for access because the cost is too high. Thus, by posting their articles online, academics are giving access to people who are outside of the system and would never pay for the articles. This will not undermine publishers, because university libraries will continue to pay for access rights because they need to ensure that their institution can get hold of this knowledge.

    Happy to be given a reality check on this one!

  9. Many libraries also provide institutional repositories for their colleagues’ work. Yes, they have to ensure you actually haven’t signed away the right to post the work (publishers that may be reluctant to slam authors for doing it will go after libraries) but if you’re smart, you won’t sign all your rights away; even if the journal doesn’t allow self-archviing in their boilerplate, try changing it. Editors are often barely aware of the rights their operations assume. And will let you submit changes such as the one provided here…

    And if they won’t, maybe you should submit your work elsewhere.

    I am thankful for every scholar who bothers to make their published work accessible.

  10. I’m not sure it always IS legal. Does it not depend on the publication? I published an article in a Taylor and Francis Journal. They give you a number of ‘free downloads” ( a lot, 50 or so) to distribute but as I understand it you are not allowed to just post the pdf or distribute it freely.

  11. For my Journal it says: “Author cannot archive publisher’s version/PDF”, but we may print copies for private sharing. This is the same as what the fine print said when my article went to press.

    Or are you suggesting we should just do it anyway as “You are more likely to simply get an email asking you to remove the PDF from your website.”

    Coincidentally I was at a one-day conference on Digital Journals yesterday! And we were all about Open Access, but wondered what the business model would be

  12. You are not allowed to post the final publisher’s version, but you are allowed to post a preprint- the version you origionally submitted to the journal, before it went through peer review.

    Please see our archives for extensive discussion about business models.

  13. Excellent, then I can suggest to PopAnth authors that they put pre-print versions of their papers somewhere such as, and we can link to those. And advise them about SPARC for the future 🙂

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