The University Libraries is committed to making access to research more sustainable, affordable, transparent and open. Here are actions that individuals can take as authors, researchers and members of the scholarly community.

If you are concerned about the budget cuts to the University Libraries’ collections announced October 1, 2021, please learn more about Ways to Help.


Take back control of your scholarship

Own your copyright

The single most important step you can take is to retain copyright for your own publications! Most publishing contracts ask you to sign copyright over to the publisher, effectively giving up rights to your own work. These contracts are often negotiable. Try using the SPARC Author Addendum. The Scholarly Communications Office at the University Libraries can provide guidance and advice.

Publish in open access journals

There are reputable open access journals in nearly every field. Find guidance and lists at Think, Check, Submit and the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Deposit your research in an open access repository

Open access makes your article easier for scholars to find, use and cite. The Carolina Digital Repository allows all members of the Carolina community to deposit, preserve and share their research output. Other reputable repositories for various disciplines include PubMed Central, arXiv, bioRxiv, SocArXiv and OSF Preprints.

Use open access and shared resources

Browser extensions such as Open Access Button and Unpaywall are free and legal ways to locate open access literature. Many researchers are happy to provide a copy of their articles upon request. Sites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu often facilitate legal scholarly sharing. And when Carolina’s libraries don’t have an article you need, we are happy to get it for you at no cost to you, and deliver it straight to your inbox. Learn more about interlibrary loan services.


Partner with the University Libraries

Identify important content sources for your discipline

Begin a conversation with the librarian for your discipline about the most important content sources in your area. Even if Carolina does not subscribe to a given title, there are many ways we can help you access scholarly literature quickly.

Expand the conversation

Launch a dialogue in your department, lab, or work group about open scholarship, open science, open data, and open access. Countries around the world produced COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatments in record time because open data and open research were shared quickly and widely for the greater good. Open science accelerated everything and can help us continue to solve the world’s greatest challenges.

Fight for more equitable and inclusive systems of scholarly publishing

Too much research exists only behind a paywall. This is a grave injustice to the taxpayers who both fund and rely on research, as well as to a global community that desperately needs access to research and knowledge.


Be a force for systemic change

Interrogate the promotion and tenure system

Publishers are able to take free content from faculty and sell it back to the academy in the form of exorbitantly priced subscriptions because these journals are needed and valued for promotion and tenure. Encourage your department and discipline to be clear about publishing criteria for appointment, promotion and tenure decisions. Learn about criticisms of journal impact factors are why they are a poor way to assess research quality.

Interrogate the peer review system

The scientific community has been experiencing a replication crisis that draws attention to longstanding weaknesses in the peer-review process. And the fact that researchers agree to serve as peer reviewers without compensation gives publishers even more leverage over the scholarly publishing process.

Serve on the publications committee of your scholarly society

The more you know about the economics of scholarly societies and their publishing activities, the more informed and the better placed you will be to make improvements.

Review your association’s publishing contract

Many scholarly societies and associations contract publication of their journals to large commercial publishers. Yet university presses, including the UNC Press, and other outlets may offer more favorable terms for authors, better deals for societies and more affordable pricing for institutions.

Transition your journal to open access

Consider working with your scholarly society to make its journal open access. Learn more in our guide and resources about transitioning it to open access.


Keep learning

The problems of unsustainable scholarship are higher education problems that impact researchers, students, and taxpayers everywhere. This crisis did not happen overnight and it does not impact only UNC-Chapel Hill.  It has been brewing for decades and is a drain on higher education everywhere.

Engage with the University Libraries

Invite representatives from the University Libraries to your meetings. Library leaders, the Scholarly Communications Officer, and liaison librarians are happy to come speak with departments, labs, committees, and other groups or individuals at the University.

Stay current

The landscape of scholarly publishing and open access is shifting rapidly. Follow updates on sustainablescholarship.unc.edu and bookmark the Health Sciences Library’s guide to open access and scholarly communications. Learn about other efforts to transform scholarly publishing as we know it, including: