What is an embargo

An embargo is where an access restriction is applied to a piece of research, meaning that whereby the research information the item will not be made available until a predetermined time. Embargoes are most commonly requested by the publishers of articles and other media, but they may also be applied by the request of the author in the context of un-published works (theses, working papers, patents, etc.). In the context of open access, there are two commonly found types of embargo:

Publication Embargo

Publication embargoes relate to full text availability in the institutional repository (the ‘green route’). The length of these embargoes varies, with an average of 12 months for STEM subjects and 24 for HUMS. However, some publishers have no embargo at all on their self-archiving policy and allow accepted manuscripts to be made available at the time of article acceptance or at publication.

You can find out if your journal applies an embargo using the Sherpa Romeo tool.

Oxford researchers depositing their accepted manuscript into ORA with a publication embargo

The ORA team check publication embargoes as part of their processing workflow. Publication embargoes will be applied by the team.

This means a record is created in ORA and that the metadata may appear in various outlets such as: Google scholar, social media and internet search engines but (unless permitted by the publisher) the full text of your article is not available and cannot be downloaded. The publication embargo is respected and the full text will be made available by the team only after the specified embargo period has elapsed.


Publisher Press Embargo

Press embargoes are aimed at press and media offices (active publicity by PR teams/journalists). They are placed so publishers can release a paper to journalists a few days before publication to give them time to prepare stories on the research and relate to the final published version of the work.

Press embargoes do not usually prohibit the bibliographic details (metadata) or abstract of the article being available online before publication.

A bibliographic record in a university repository or in a search engine does not constitute pre-publicity. The public availability of article metadata is not the same as a press release or other active media reporting. The ORA team check and abide by known publisher press (metadata) embargo policies as well as full text (file) embargoes before making anything publicly available on the ORA site. They are aware of the main publishers which prohibit any article details being released prior to publication.

Where a journal or publisher has a full press embargo no record or metadata for the research publication will be made available in ORA until the research is published. For some journals and publishers the press embargo applies only to the abstract of the work.

Journals with a full press embargo include: Cell (and other Cell Press), Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Neurology, New England Journal of Medicine, Science (and other AAAS journals).

Journals with press embargo on abstract include: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Lancet journals, Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Nature and Royal Society journals do allow pre-publication release of metadata (bibliographic record and abstract).

Oxford Researchers depositing their accepted manuscript into ORA with a press embargo

As with publication embargoes, the ORA team check press embargoes as part of their workflow.

Depositors are encouraged to let us know if a press embargo is in place using the Comments box when depositing via Symplectic Elements. This is particularly important if a publisher requires a press embargo on a case-by-case basis.

What if the metadata needs to stay hidden until publication?

There are several reasons why authors may not wish to have the metadata about an article made available before publication. These might include the desire to announce the research at a conference, or if the work is subject to a patent claim. In addition, some publishers do prohibit the release of metadata prior to publication.

In these cases the University still needs you to submit your paper to ORA on acceptance so it can be made compliant. Your manuscript will be kept under a full embargo and it won’t appear in any search results (e.g. Google or Google Scholar).

Upon publication these papers are made available in the repository. The current Research Excellence Framework (REF) policy requires papers to be uploaded to the University repository within 3 months of acceptance even if they are fully embargoed.

If you are worried about breaking a press embargo please contact us – in many cases you can still make the metadata publicly available.