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Open access and rights retention

Rights Retention

How does the rights retention mechanism work?

Our rights retention mechanism has two components:

  1. Automatically licensing the University to disseminate your work. SHU authors–staff or student–automatically licence the university to disseminate the Author Accepted Manuscripts of their scholarly papers under the CC BY licence, through our Research Publications and Copyright Policy.

  2. Giving the publisher notice that such a prior licence to SHU exists. You as an author must do this by including the Rights Retention Statement in all your submissions. The university also has separately notified the most popular publishers before the Policy came into force.

This means that if a publisher accepts to publish your paper, they do so in the full knowledge that a prior licence to your Author Accepted Manuscript exists. This prior licence then takes precedence over any subsequent assignments or licences of copyright in the Author Accepted Manuscript, and your Author Accepted Manuscript can therefore be disseminated via our repository from the day of first publication under the Creative Commons Attribution licence without breaking copyright law.


Should I add the Rights Retention Statement to papers I submit before the 15th of October 2022?
No. The policy does not apply retropectively, only to papers you submit from the 15th of October onwards. Only from the 15th of October will SHU authors automatically licence the university to disseminate their Author Accepted Manuscripts via the repository from the day of first publication under the Creative Commons Attribution licence.


Why was rights retention introduced?

Immediate Open Access aligns with the University’s ambitions for Open Research: we have a statement that articulates well our position and strong support for open research.

Immediate Open Access also chimes with our vision to become the world’s leading applied university, as it helps us to share our research beyond academia with the people and organisations that we work with as an applied university. Making open access immediate, rather than after a delay, can play a role in increasing the reach and impact of our research.

Importantly, immediate Open Access via rights retention has direct benefits for authors:

  1. Authors achieve immediate and wide dissemination without restrictions
  2. They retain more rights over their own work
  3. They also retain the freedom to publish where they see fit
  4. Whilst automatically complying with all external open access requirements


How will publishers respond? Won’t including the Rights Retention Statement limit my opportunities to publish?

No. It is extremely unlikely that a publisher will reject to publish your submission, because of the inclusion of the Rights Retention Statement.

Of course, publishers are free to refuse to publish manuscripts with rights retention. But as soon as they accept such a manuscript for publication, in the knowledge that the author has given a prior licence to the university, the prior licence to SHU takes precedence over any subsequent licence in copyright law, and you can make your manuscript available from the repository from the day of first publication under the Creative Commons Attribution licence without breaking copyright law.

All indications are that the risk of submissions being rejected because of rights retention is extremely low, and Your Library is working actively to minimise this risk even further.

1. Experience from other universities

First, the experience from organisations that have already adopted a rights retention mechanism is encouraging. Universities worldwide have been using rights retention ever since Harvard University introduced the mechanism in 2008. In the UK, the universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge have been operating a rights retention policy since the beginning of 2022. In October 2022 they shared their experience. It transpires that, according to Cambridge, just two (2) papers were rejected because of the Statement, in both cases by smaller American learned societies: the Seismological Society of America and the American Society of Hematology. As a result, the authors decided to submit their work to different journals so that they could retain rights over their acepted manusacript.

Cambridge also reported that there was a second group of publishers that asked for the Statement to be removed, either because they deemed it not necessary or because another compliant route (such as gold open access) was available to the authors. When these publishers were asked by journalists about this removal request, Elsevier and Springer Nature answered that they only assess manuscripts on editorial merit, and that they will not reject manuscripts on the grounds of the inclusion of the Statement.

This may, for example, happen when Sheffield Hallam authors publsh with the American Chemical Society: because SHU have a read-and-publish agreement with them, authors are able to publish via gold open access at no extra cost, and rights retention is therefore strictly speaking not necessary. Authors may therefore be asked to remove the Statement and choose the gold option.

When asked to remove the Statement, authors are free to do so. But please be aware that removing the Statement from the submission does not remove the prior license authors automatically give to the University. The 60 most popular publishers have been notified of the existence of this prior license in advance of the policy coming into force -- the Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Rory Duncan has written to publishers to notify them of the prior license and that whether authors include the Statement in their submissions, or not, has no effect on the existence of this prior license. As a consequence, authors can remove the Statement when asked, and they can still make the accepted manuscript downloadable from the repository from the day first publication under the CC BY licence, without breaking copyright law.

2. Agreements with publishers

Secondly, SHU has agreements in place with an increasing number of publishers which are negotiated by Jisc on behalf of UK Universities. These agreements often include stipulations that those publishers will not reject submissions with rights retention. Jisc continues to negotiate such agreements. It is  expected that more of these agreements will come in place soon. All new agreements that Jisc negotiates will contain the stipulation that rights retention should be acceptable to the publisher.

These agreements go by the name of read-and-publish, or transformative agreements. They currently exist for larger publishers such as Elsevier, SAGE, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley.

3. Publishers have been notified and did not object

Thirdly, we have written to our most popular publishers to announce we are implementing rights retention, and so far we’ve received no negative responses. Our intent is that, if we receive a negative response, we will work with the publisher in question so that SHU authors will not be prejudiced against when submitting their work.

Similarly, we are asking all authors to get in touch with the Library immediately if they run into any issues when including the Statement, so that the Library can sort the problem out for you. This also means Your Library will have a complete picture of all issues that arise, so that they can intervene appropriately and proactively to avoid them in the future.

4. You can opt out if necessary

Fourthly, if your chosen publisher will not consider your submission because of the prior licence given to SHU, and you feel you cannot publish your paper in another journal, you can opt out of the Sheffield Hallam policy. Opting out means that:

  1. you can apply a different licence than CC BY
  2. introduce a delay (an ‘embargo’) in making your paper open access via the institutional repository

It also means that you can apply the publisher's usual open access policy.

Therefore, opting out should allow you to publish with your publisher of first choice. Please note that if you have a grant from a funder that requires immediate Open Access, such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Wellcome Trust, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) or the European Research Council (ERC), then your publisher may be preventing you from complying with your funder’s requirements.
Please refer to the checklist for guidance on opting out.

5. Our policy gives you more freedom to publish where you see fit

Finally, the ability to opt out means that the freedom to publish where you wish is not constrained by our policy. On the contrary, the SHU Rights Retention mechanism increases your choice of publication venue, especially if your work is funded by a research funder that requires immediate open access, such as those who form the international consortium of research funders, cOAlition S, which includes UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the European Research Council (ERC), and funders that align with cOAlition S principles, such as the Wellcome Trust, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). It is also expected that one of the requirements for submission to the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) is immediate open access but details have not yet been released.

The SHU policy guarantees that authors retain the freedom to publish in a journal of their choice, whilst complying with all known external requirements including for the next REF. This is not always possible without the SHU policy, since authors would then not be able to publish in subscription-based journals without a compliant self-archiving policy that allows for immediate open access, or in hybrid journals that are not compliant with cOAlition S requirements for hybrid journals or that are simply too costly to publish in—e.g. the open-access fee for publishing in Nature-branded journals is EUR 9,500!


What do I do if I run into an issue?

We want this to be as easy for you as possible and we certainly do not expect you to negotiate with publishers. Please remember that your Library Research Support team is just an email or a phone call away. If you run into any issues whatsoever, you should contact Library Research Support immediately and they will help you resolve it.


How do I get agreement from my co-authors?

From the experience from Edinburgh and Cambridge, who implemented a Rights Retention policy before us, it appears that co-authors will usually agree. Once more universities adopt a Rights Retention policy, co-authors from those institutions will very likely agree. This is expected to  happen over the next few months and years, especially once new open access requirements for the next Research Excellence Framework (REF)  have been published.

Your Library provides an email template you can use to inform your co-authors, and an information page for co-authors that explains what you want from them and why. Guidance on obtaining agreement from your co-authors is included in the checklist

It makes sense to keep this as easy and light-weight as possible, e.g. especially in larger collaborations it would make perfect sense to achieve agreement via the corresponding author rather than contacting all co-authors separately. 


What is a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence, and why should I choose it?

A Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence allows re-users to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. In practice this means that a reader can include a figure, table or photograph from your article in their own work (e.g. a paper or teaching materials that they will release online) without having to obtain any additional permission, for any purpose.

If you were to distribute your paper without a licence instead– ‘all rights reserved’–a reader would not be able to do anything without the copyright owner’s explicit permission unless it is ‘fair dealing’ under copyright law (e.g.  limited use of copyrighted material for certain fixed purposes such as ‘criticism and review’).

Other Creative Commons licences are more restrictive. They include licences that prohibit derivative works (No Derivatives ND) and that prevent commercial use (Non Commercial NC). A good example is the CC BY-NC-ND licence that some publishers use for Gold Open Access papers.

A CC BY licence is our preferred licence because it is the most liberal licence that still ensures that re-users give credit to you as the creator, without unnecessarily restricting what they can do. It is also the licence that most research funders require you to choose–it is for example part of the cOALition S requirements. In other words, choosing a CC BY licence ensures you will comply with external requirements.


Do I have to include the statement when I submit to a fully open access journal?

Yes. You should include the statement in all submissions to journals and conference proceedings. The purpose of the statement is to inform the publisher and journal editors of the license over the accepted manuscript you have already given to the University. All publishers should be made aware of this. Adding the statement to all your submissions ensures that your publisher will always be aware of the prior licence given to the university when they make a decision on your submission.


What happens if I forget to include the Rights Retention Statement?

For the rights retention mechanism to work, it is essential that the publisher has been given notice that the author has given a prior licence to SHU. This is achieved by including the Rights Retention Statement at the point of submission. Additionally, the university has also notified the most popular publishers before the policy came into force on the 15th of October 2022.

Therefore, If you forgot to include the Rights Retention Statement but you publish with a publisher that we have notified before the policy came into force, then the publisher has been given notice that a prior licence exists and you can act as if you had included the Rights Retention Statement.

In other cases, you could try to have the Statement included before acceptance. Ask the library research support team if you are unsure.

Open Access

How can I get help with paying for Open Access?

If you wish to publish your work Gold Open Access (Routes B and C), your publisher will usually request an Article Processing Charge (APC) for articles or a similar charge for another type of output. 

The library has read-and-publish agrements with some publishers that cover these costs for eligible articles or you may wish to apply for support with Open Access charges.


How do I comply with the REF open access requirements?

The REF open access requirements relate to articles published in journals or conference proceedings with an ISSN.

These must be deposited in SHURA within three months of the date of acceptance. You do this by uploading the output to Elements.

You must also provide proof of the date of acceptance, usually in the form of an email from the journal editor or conference organiser. 

If you follow the checklist to publish your scholarly articles open access, your articles will meet the REF open access requirements.  The REF open access requirements page provides more information. 

The date of acceptance is the point at which the author is notified that:

  • their output has been reviewed by the journal or conference (normally via peer review)
  • all academically necessary changes have been made in response to that review
  • the article is ready to be taken through the final steps toward publication (normally copy-editing and typesetting).

By this point, the paper should have been updated to include all changes resulting from peer review as well as any changes of an academic nature requested by the journal editor or conference organiser. At this stage, the journal editor or conference organiser normally notifies the author that their paper has been ‘firmly’ accepted (as opposed to any earlier point of ‘provisional’ acceptance e.g. conditional on major or minor revisions being made) and the paper is ready for copy-editing or typesetting; it is the date of this notification that should be taken to mean the date of acceptance.

The date of acceptance for conference proceedings is not the date at which your contribution to the conference was accepted for presentation, but rather the date at which your fully authored research output was accepted for publication in the conference proceedings.


Which version of my work should I upload to Elements?

For journal articles and conference papers, it is the author accepted manuscript (or post-print) which should be uploaded to Elements.  The is the version of the article including all changes resulting from peer review as well as any changes of an academic nature requested by the journal editor or conference organiser.  You cannot usually use the copy-edited, typeset, or published paper,  known as the ‘proof’ or ‘version of record'.