The Berkeley Lab Postdoc Association is an organization run by and for about 1000 postdocs and early career scientists working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. We organize many activities to strengthen our ties to the Lab, to each other and to the (Berkeley) Bay Area. Our goal is to facilitate social interactions, scientific exchanges, seminars and general orientation.
Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab

Open Access publishing at Berkeley Lab

open_access_flag_bw_croppedIt’s Open Access Week.  And, postdocs are at the forefront to promote Open Access (OA) as an important scientific and societal movement.  To further raise awareness we devote this blog post to OA by mentioning and briefly discussing the two main options for us—for researchers at Berkeley Lab—to publish OA.  As we will explain below in more detail, the first option is optional, whereas the second one is actually a stipulation that we have to meet.

To get started the most instructive way to dive into this topic is maybe a quote:

All scientific and technical research funded by the U.S. Government or undertaken at facilities funded by the government must be made available for access by the public.

This quote, which is taken from the Lab’s Scientific Publications FAQs, is pretty self-explanatory. Every person at the Lab who publishes papers that report on Lab-funded research has to make the papers publicly available.  Period.

The first option to achieve open access is: pay the publisher to make it available on the publisher’s website.  Open access fees are however easily >$1,000, even if circumstances are favorable.  For example, the Lab is an All ACS Publications-subscribing institution with the American Chemical Society (ACS), which significantly reduces OA costs with this specific publisher. And, if you’re a member with the ACS, this further reduces OA costs (click here for an overview).  So, there can be cost-reducing factors: yes.  But it is typically still financially difficult for a young researcher such as a postdoc or PhD candidate who does not have proper own funding to go for OA all by her/his own.  In those cases, you’re critically dependent on the graciousness (and funding) of your PI or mentor.

The second OA option is very specific to people like us at the Lab; that is, people at US government institutions.  Because the US government retains a non-exclusive right to publish and reproduce manuscripts, it has provided us with a cheap route to open access.  There are some important things to consider, which we highlight below.

The underlying policy affects much more than only journal articles.  It pertains equally to following scientific and technical documents: conference submissions, proceedings, books and book chapters, theses/dissertations, and formal programmatic progress and completion reports.  All of these documents have to be sent to Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI).  So, this open access route is in fact a requirement.  Keep that in mind.

The first step in pursuing this OA option is talking to your PI, mentor, group leader, and/or division administration people.  The reason is that you have to find out whether or not there are division-specific policies and procedures in place.  Should there not be any such special procedures, the next step toward OA happens after submission and acceptance of your manuscript.  At that point, you have to include following copyright statement to the copyright agreement with your (commercial) publisher:

This manuscript has been authored by an author at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under Contract No. DE-AC02-05CH11231 with the U.S. Department of Energy. The U.S. Government retains, and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges, that the U.S. Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for U.S. Government purposes.

If you wish to publish with Elsevier, you have to take into account that the publisher requires an amended publication agreement.  For this reason, authors should contact Elsevier at

Commercial publishers typically demand that you may not use the proof-read and formatted pdf that the publisher provides.  Instead, you should use a generic version of your manuscript.  This is typically the revised paper that you re-submit as a response to reviewers’ comments and suggestions. Apart from standard information that has to be included in the generic manuscript version, the corresponding RPM tells you to insert a legal disclaimer:

“This document was prepared as an account of work sponsored by the United States Government. While this document is believed to contain correct information, neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor the Regents of the University of California, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by its trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof, or the Regents of the University of California. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof or the Regents of the University of California.”

Finally, some publishers require a so-called exclusivity period.  That is, the publisher has the exclusive right for a defined period of time (e.g., for half a year after formal publication of your paper on their website) to provide access in any form to any version of your manuscript.  So, you’re not even allowed to have the generic version of your paper on any document server during that time period.  Check the author guidelines and other resources found on your publisher’s websites to ensure you comply with all relevant policies.

We hope that the blog helps postdocs and other people to be more aware of open access options and requirements at Berkeley Lab.  We wish everybody happy (open access) publishing.