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Open access and rights retention

The lowdown on Rights Retention

Although you automatically hold the copyright when you write a paper, if you publish it in a subscription-based journal, you will be asked to sign a publishing agreement in which you give all or part of your copyrights to your publisher, who now holds them in exclusivity.

In practice, this means that you cannot use your own work without explicit written permission from your publisher. For example, you cannot use any of your content on Wikipedia, translate your own work into another language or another format such as Braille, distribute a copy of your work through a repository from the day of first publication, or share your work with colleagues by uplosding it to an academic social network such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Conversely, a publisher can do all of these things without first seeking your permission, and more: they can re-package your content for use by other providers, including commercial ones, and they can alter or reformat your manuscript (e.g. include your work in an anthology) as well as sub-licence all or any rights they choose to anyone else.

Rights retention allows you to retain key rights over your peer-reviewed manuscript, rather than signing them away to your publisher.

In particular, you will retain the right to disseminate your peer-reviewed manuscript by depositing it in a repository and providing open access from the day of first publication under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.

Publish with power, retain your rights

From the 15th of October 2022, you will be able to retain key rights over your peer-reviewed manuscript, rather than signing them away to your publisher.

This is achieved with one (1) simple action. Include the following Rights Retention Statement in the funding acknowledgement section and cover letter of all submissions of your (co-)authored papers to journals or conference proceedings:

“For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission.”

You will need to continue to deposit the accepted manuscript of your papers into Elements as soon as possible after acceptance but before publication.

By including the Rights Retention Statement, you will retain inter alia the right to disseminate your peer-reviewed manuscript by depositing it in a repository and providing open access from the day of first online publication under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence.

Please note that you will automatically apply that CC BY licence to your Accepted Manuscript via your contract of employment with the University. There's nothing you have to do. But you will need to notify your publisher that a CC BY licence has already applied by including the above Rights Retention Statement.

A CC BY licence means that a reader can include a figure, table, photograph or other materials from your article for any purpose in their own work without having to obtain any additional permission, as long as they acknowledge the original source. Releasing your work under a Creative Commons licence is important because otherwise a reader will always need the copyright owner’s explicit permission, unless it is ‘fair dealing’ under copyright law (i.e. limited reuse of copyright material for certain fixed purposes, such as ‘criticism and review’). Your work is not truly Open Access without a liberal re-use licence, and research funders are increasingly requiring you to distribute your work under the CC BY licence. For more information about available Creative Commons licenses, go to our Open Research pages.

Normally, you would lose the right to disseminate your peer-reviewed manuscript during your publication journey. Although you automatically hold the copyright when you write a paper, if you publish it in a subscription journal, you will be asked to sign a publishing agreement in which you give all or part of your copyrights to your publisher, who now holds them in exclusivity.

In practice, this means that you cannot use your own work without explicit written permission from your publisher. For example, you cannot use any of your content on Wikipedia, translate your own work into another language or another format such as Braille, distribute a copy of your work through a repository from the day of first publication, or share your work with colleagues by uploading it to an academic social network such as Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Conversely, a publisher can do all of these things without first seeking your permission, and more: they can re-package your content for use by other providers, including commercial ones, and they can alter or reformat your manuscript (e.g. include your work in an anthology) as well as sub-licence all or any rights they choose to anyone else.

In short, if you transfer or grant exclusive rights to a publisher, they can use your work without asking, whereas you, the author and creator, may be unable to make similar use of your own intellectual content.

Jake Phillips"I’m looking forward to being able to maintain the rights to the work that I have done as it is gives me more scope to share articles on social media, increase readership and make it easier for policymakers and practitioners to engage with my research. They can then use it to improve their practice and make probation more effective with no one being in breach of copyright law!"

Jake Phillips, Reader in Criminology

The new SHU mechanism of rights retention not only ensures you retain key rights over your accepted manuscript, it also ensures that you will automatically comply with all external Open Access requirements (from research funders such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), and the Wellcome Trust; and for the next national research assessment following REF 2021) whilst retaining the freedom to choose where you publish your work, which may otherwise be restricted by your funder’s requirements.

This rights retention mechanism is tried and tested. Harvard has been using it since 2008. But we are the first institution in England to implement it other than as a trial. Other institutions are also planning to implement this rights retention mechanism.

You will be fully supported by your Library. We will provide all the sdupport you need to achieve the benefits that the new Research Publications and Copyright Policy promises. We provide a full checklist on what to do when you publish a paper in a journal or conference proceedings. And why don't you check out our events--there may be a session on rights retention you would like to attend!

Your peer reviewed manuscript is your intellectual creation. Don't give it away !

What's in it for me?

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.

Iimmediate Open Access also has direct benefits for our authors.

1. You achieve immediate and wide dissemination without restrictions

The main aim of the new research publications policy is to disseminate your scholarly work as quickly and widely as possible. This helps increase citations and extends the reach of your research.

Because rights retention means that you can start disseminating your accepted manuscript from the day of first  publication rather than after a delay of 6 to 24 months (‘embargo’), which your publisher will usually require, you start accumulating academic impact immediately.

2. You retain more rights over your own work

Another aim of the policy is to help authors of scholarly papers to retain more rights over their own work through the copyright provisions in the policy. Currently, authors often assign copyright to their publisher to get their papers published. The publisher then does not allow dissemination of the paper other than from behind a paywall or under conditions that do not allow immediate Open Access without restrictions. The new Research Publications and Copyright Policy ensures that the author retains the right to disseminate the accepted manuscript of their papers immediately and in any way they like, such as via uploading to social media sites such as ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Authors will therefore retain rights they currently do not retain.

Essentially, ‘rights retention’ means that the author retains all or part of the rights that are bundled under the term copyright. Copyright is a collection of exclusive rights that automatically applies to published academic work. The point is that, when authors sign over their copyright to a publisher—as they often do when publishing in a subscription journal—that the author loses most if not all of these rights, and that they do not necessarily have permission from the new copyright owner to copy their own work, for example to disseminate copies to their researcher community, or to post their work on social media, or to deposit a copy in an institutional repository or on a website. With our ‘rights retention’ mechanism in place, authors would retain the right to re-use copies of their own work in this way.

3. You retain the freedom to publish where you see fit

Authors retain the freedom to publish in a journal of their choice, whilst complying with all known external requirements including for next national research assessment following REF 2021. This is not always possible without this policy, especially not when open access requirements aligned with the international open access initiative Plan S are in force, such as for National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded research. Plan S requires that ‘scientific publications that result from research funded by public grants must be published in compliant Open Access journals or platforms’, which means they must be published in fully open access journals but not in so-called hybrid journals (which offer both subscription and open access content) unless the publisher has committed to transition the journal to a fully open access journal within a certain timeframe, or that the peer-reviewed manuscript must be available from a repository from the date of first publication under the CC BY licence. Under Plan S rules, authors would not be able to publish in subscription-based journals without a compliant self-archiving policy that allows immediate open access under the CC BY licence, or in hybrid journals that are not compliant with Plan S requirements for such journals, or that are simply too costly to publish in (the open access fee for Nature-branded journals is EUR 9,500).

4. You automatically comply with all external requirements

Our rights retention mechanism guarantees you can publish in any journal, in the full knowledge that you will comply with Plan S rules–which covers funders such as UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), and the Wellcome Trust–, and with the forthcoming open access requirements for the next national research assessment following REF 2021.