Thing 18: Sharing Your Work (Without Breaking the Law)

Image: “Share” by GotCredit via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Knowing what your publisher will let you share with others, and where you can share it, is one of the more challenging obstacles to reaching an audience outside academia. In this post, we provide some guidelines on sharing online (without upsetting your publisher). 

Getting started

To work out what you can and can’t share, it is essential to consider the following: 

  1. What type of research output you are sharing: vastly different policies apply according to whether you are sharing a journal article, book chapter or conference paper.
  2. Where you plan to share: publishers have different policies for personal websites, institutional repositories like Minerva Access, subject repositories like SSRN, and Scholarly Collaboration Networks (SCNs) such as ResearchGate. 
  3. Which version of your work you wish to share: unless you have obtained a Creative Commons Licence for your work or maintained ownership of your work, it is unlikely you will be able to share the final published version. Often, however, you may share an earlier version of your work.
  4. Whether an embargo period or other conditions will apply: journal and book publishers will typically let you share earlier versions of your work, but they may make you wait to do so… 

 What can I make open access?

Publication Type 


Journal Articles 

Generally you will be able to upload an accepted (or ‘post-print’) copy of your manuscript to a repository or personal website (this is the version which has been peer‐reviewed, but not yet had publisher logo, pagination, volume and issue number applied). Note that an embargo period will almost certainly apply before you will be able to do this (typically between 12 and 24 months). 

If you are sharing your work on an SCN such as ResearchGate or, please be aware that some publishers, including Wiley and Elsevier, will only allow you to share the submitted (or ‘pre-print’) version of your work. 

Two useful online resources for checking what your publisher allows are: 

  •  SHERPA/RoMEO: a publicly-funded registry, covering over 5000 publishers and 22,000 journal titles 
  • How can I share it?: publisher-funded and covers only the largest publishers, but offers clear guidance on sharing via SCNs 

Your publisher’s website may also prove a useful source of information. See, for example, the advice provided by Elsevier here. 

Conference Papers  You may generally share the final published version of your publication, assuming you have not transferred copyright to the conference organiser or publisher of the conference proceedings.  
Books and Book Chapters 

Many book publishers will allow you to upload one chapter from a book. With the exception of Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press (who at the time of writing allow the final published copy) an accepted copy is generally allowed. 

The best place to find information is on each publisher’s website (unfortunately there is no SHERPA/RoMEO equivalent for book permissions at this point in time). See, for example: 

Other Publication Types (incl. Reports and Creative Works)
Permissions vary widely—check with your publisher or commissioning body. 

Is there an alternative…?

Not happy with the situation above? There are other options worth considering that will leave you with more control over the ownership and dissemination of your work. Consider… 

  • Publishing in an OA Journal and applying a Creative Commons Licence to your work. Whilst payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC) will often be required for higher impact journals, over 70% of journals indexed in the Directory of Open Access Journals do not require an APC. 
  • Negotiating with your publisher at the time of acceptance to remove or reduce your embargo period and/or allow sharing of a later version of your work. Typically this is done via adding an author addendum to your publishing agreement. 

Try This

Several subscription publishers provide authors toll-free links (often time-limited) to enable access to the published version to non-subscribers. Wiley and SpringerNature‘s sharing services go further and allow any subscriber to publicly post, on any platform (including SCNs), links to read-only PDFs of final published articles. Try creating and then sharing a link from one or other of these services. 

Learn More

Further Reading 

Assistance available at The University of Melbourne 

This post was written by Jenny McKnight (Research Consultant (Open Access) and Stephen Cramond (Manager, Institutional Repository).

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