Rights Retention now affects some Oxford Brookes researchers

Research funders starting to implement controversial new Open Access requirement

by Dan Croft [3 minute read]

Rights Retention was a very lively debate that has recently become a topic of much greater relevance to Oxford Brookes researchers.

The basic idea of Rights Retention is that when authors submit manuscripts to publishers they include a statement indicating that they will apply a Creative Commons licence (usually CC-BY 4.0) to any accepted manuscript resulting from the submission and peer review process.

The intention of Rights Retention is to circumvent the Open Access policies of scholarly publishers that tell authors what they can and cannot do with accepted manuscripts and that typically delay the release of manuscripts by one to two years. With Rights Retention, authors and their institutions assert the right to make these manuscripts freely available, immediately.

The idea is being championed by cOAlition S (or ‘Plan S’ as they are sometimes known) and is another effort from this group of research funders to improve the availability and impact of the scholarly research they fund.

Rights Retention can be a complicated topic to understand, hence the numerous explainers (e.g. Scholarly Kitchen and LSE Blog) and recent webinars (JISC and ARMA) on the topic.

We ourselves have written about Rights Retention fairly recently, but since then there has been a significant change as multiple research funders (some of whom are part of cOAlition S and some who are not) are starting to include a Rights Retention requirement in their Open Access policies.

These research funders – at the time of writing – include Wellcome, NIHR (National Institute for Health Research), and UKRI plus all of its Research Councils. Also, the University of Edinburgh has become the first UK university to include Rights Retention in a university-wide policy for the manuscript submissions of all its authors.

However, many scholarly publishers have publicly stated their opposition to Rights Retention on the basis that it provides “an immediate free substitute that eliminates the ability to charge for the services that publishers provide”.

For example, Springer Nature have said that they will ignore any Rights Retention statements in a submission and, if the article is accepted for publication, ask the authors to sign a publishing licence that includes an embargo period. Springer Nature claims that this publishing licence would supersede any Rights Retention statement made by the author during submission, even though Rights Retention has never been tested in UK contract law.

Of course, it is the researchers who find themselves in the middle of this conflict as they try to publish in the best venue for their research whilst complying with their funder’s requirements.

What should researchers do?

The most important principle is that researchers should follow the requirements of their research funder. As it says in the Oxford Brookes Open Access policy: “If a researcher’s output has been funded by a funder that has explicit Open Access requirements, then the researcher must comply with the funder’s policy”.

The Scholarly Communications Team can support Oxford Brookes researchers to work out if their research funder has a Rights Retention requirement, what they would need to include in a submission to comply with a funder’s Rights Retention requirement, and how a particular publisher or journal might react to a submission that includes a Rights Retention statement.

If you would like help in understanding Rights Retention or any other aspect of a funder’s Open Access policy, please contact the Scholarly Communications Team at openaccess@brookes.ac.uk.

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