What is an embargo?
Publishers have different kinds of embargoes.
Press embargoes mean publishers can release a paper to journalists a few days before publication to give them time to prepare stories on the research. They relate to the final published version of the work.
Publication embargoes for open access are different. They are a restriction on the dissemination of an Author's Accepted Manuscript through a repository. As a very general rule of thumb these embargoes are often 12 months long. That is, the publication can be made available in the repository 12 months after publication.
The Open Access team manages publication embargoes in Apollo the University repository. Papers that are submitted to www.openaccess.cam.ac.uk are deposited into Apollo. The metadata (information about the paper such as the title and authors) is made available but the article itself is held under embargo.
This is in line with the requirement stipulated by HEFCE: "... to be eligible for submission to the post-2014 REF, authors’ final peer-reviewed manuscripts must have been deposited in an institutional or subject repository on acceptance for publication. Deposited material should be discoverable, and free to read and download, for anyone with an internet connection."
Will making metadata available before publication mean my article is 'pulled'?
Some publishers apply press embargoes on papers that they are going to publish. In many cases this doesn't prohibit the release of metadata in a repository, which means we can still upload your accepted manuscript on the repository (with the manuscript embargoed).
However some researchers have expressed concern about the metadata being available about a publication before it is published. The main worry is that having the metadata available before publication will cause the publisher to 'pull' the article and not publish it. Given the apparent lack of any evidence that this has occured in the past, the Office of Scholarly Communication is in the process of seeking clarity on this issue. To date we have had confirmation from Nature and BMJ that this is not the policy of their journals.
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 we still need you to submit your paper to us on acceptance so we can make it compliant with the HEFCE policy. We will upload your manuscript to a 'dark' collection in the repository that is completely closed and doesn't appear in any search results (e.g. Google). Upon publication these papers are moved out of the 'dark' collection and made public. The HEFCE policy requires papers to be uploaded to the University repository within 3 months of acceptance even if they go into a dark collection first.
If you are worried about breaking a press embargo please contact us - in many cases you can still make the metadata publicly available.