N8 Rights Retention Statement – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Rights Retention?

In the context of academic publishing, Rights Retention refers to the practice of authors retaining certain rights to their work, such as the right to distribute, share, or reuse their research article or other scholarly output. This can be done through agreements with publishers or by depositing the work in an institutional repository, among other methods.

The N8 Research Partnership has worked collectively to develop a new N8 Rights Retention Statement. Under this consortium-wide agreement, each university is updating its publication policy to support authors to retain more intellectual property rights in their research articles.

Under each institution’s revised publications policy, authors will retain the right to make a copy of their Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) immediately Open Access through their institutional repository under a CC BY license, irrespective of embargo periods stipulated by publishers.

What is the purpose of Rights Retention?

The purpose of Rights Retention is to ensure that authors have control over the dissemination and impact of their work, and to promote greater access to, and visibility of, academic research.

In line with the UK HE sector, N8 institutions have a strong motivation to challenge existing, problematic models of academic publishing, and to explore new models which may offer increased equity and constrain costs. Rights Retention addresses one longstanding and problematic aspect of academic publishing whereby academic authors assign the full copyright in their scholarly papers to the publishers of those papers. In taking these rights, publishers then enjoy all the benefits of choosing who can read those papers, in what circumstances, for what charge, including determining what the original authors are and are not allowed to do with the work they authored.

By asserting that authors retain re-use rights to at least the Author Accepted Manuscript version of their papers, Rights Retention ensures that authors always have the right to use and share their own versions of their papers as they see fit. It also provides a single mechanism that enables authors to meet any funder or institutional Open Access policies to which they are subject.

Prior to the introduction of institutional policies which include Rights Retention, authors were frequently compelled to grant publishers an exclusive license to research papers during the publication process. This allowed publishers to determine how and when a research paper could be shared, often requiring papers to be embargoed for significant periods of time. This meant that, unless it was possible to publish a paper Gold Open Access, it would likely be unavailable to potential readers without paid access to the journal for months or even years, delaying scientific, scholarly and real-world progress.

Where can I find information on my University’s policy on Rights Retention?

The N8 Research Partnership’s institutions have implemented policies in support of the joint statement on Rights Retention.

These policies generally apply to scholarly articles (including original research articles, review articles, and articles published in conference proceedings).

You can find more information on your University’s policy on Rights Retention, including output types, researcher roles, and publication dates in scope, by selecting your institution below:

Generally, these policies do not apply to monographs, scholarly editions, textbooks, book chapters, collections of essays, theses, datasets, or other outputs that are not scholarly articles.  However, all N8 Research Partnership Institutions strongly encourage researchers to make these outputs as openly available as possible, and researchers are encouraged to contact their Library to access additional support and guidance available.

As an author, how do I benefit from Rights Retention?

The introduction of Rights Retention into the publication policies of N8 Research Partnership institutions provides the following benefits to authors:

  • Authors are enabled to continue to publish in the journal of their choice
  • Authors are empowered to retain sufficient rights to share their research outputs more widely
  • Authors can ensure compliance with funder requirements for immediate Open Access regardless of publisher policies
  • Authors will be able to comply with any requirements for immediate Open Access under future REF exercises
  • Increased opportunities for reaching a broader audience, both inside and outside academia, which in turn could lead to greater impact on society and increased citations and collaborations for researchers

Will Rights Retention enable me to comply with my funder’s Open Access policy?

Yes. Many research funders have signed up to cOAlition S and therefore require immediate Open Access to the outputs of research they have funded. Rights Retention offers a means of ensuring compliance with such funder requirements.

Inclusion of Rights Retention into each N8 Research Partnership institution’s publications policy is intended to allow researchers to be able to publish in the journal of their choice, whilst retaining sufficient rights in their accepted manuscripts to be able to share these and meet the Open Access requirements of their funder.

The ability to share articles immediately Open Access under Rights Retention should also ensure that authors can comply with expected Open Access requirements for the next national research assessment following REF 2021.

Have other institutions introduced Rights Retention?

Yes. The N8 Research Partnership announced its N8 Rights Retention Strategy on 24th January 2023, as covered in the Times Higher Educational Supplement (paid content), and each N8 institution has introduced revised publication policies to implement this strategy. But we are not the only institutions to have implemented this approach.

Following the launch of the Rights Retention Strategy by cOAlition-S in 2021, Edinburgh University published its Research Publications & Copyright Policy on 1 January 2022. Cambridge University also launched its Rights Retention Pilot in 2022, and other Universities including Aberdeen, Sheffield Hallam and St Andrew’s followed with their own policies in the same year.

As of February 2023, 14 UK and European institutions have announced or published policies in support of a Rights Retention Approach.

What action is required by authors to engage with or benefit from Rights Retention?

Each N8 institution’s publications policy and implementation of Rights Retention is specific to that institution, so please consult your University Library for tailored support.

What action is required when working with co-authors; as part of a research collaboration; or when an N8 author is not the Corresponding Author?

Authors based at N8 Research Partnership institutions are required to adhere to their institution’s publications policy. Publications policies usually apply to all papers associated with the institution, regardless of the author’s role, though authors should familiarise themselves with their institution’s specific policy and seek support from their University Library if further information is required.

Where a paper will be shared Open Access via Rights Retention, N8 authors are strongly encouraged to make co-authors made aware of this. The N8 institutions recognise that this may not be straightforward when working in large collaborations; in this scenario it is advisable to liaise with the Corresponding Author. Authors should contact their University Library for tailored support and guidance.

How does Rights Retention relate to different publishing routes, such as publishing in an Open Access journal, a publisher Transformative Agreement, or sharing a paper via a subject repository?

Rights Retention offers another way to share an article immediately Open Access, in addition to existing options such as publishing in an Open Access journal or via a publisher Transformative Agreement. Authors at N8 institutions can continue to publish papers Open Access through these routes if their preferred journal offers these options, and if any required funding is available.

The introduction of Rights Retention into N8 institutions’ publication policies means that articles not eligible for these Open Access routes can now be made immediately Open Access upon publication via the institutional repository, and will not be subject to publisher embargoes.

This change will not only mean that more articles are immediately available for all to access, thus extending the potential reach and impact of the research, but it will also make it easier for authors to adhere to Open Access policies set out by funders.

Each N8 institution provides specific information and guidance on action required by authors related to Rights Retention, including when publishing via different Open Access routes, so please consult your University Library for tailored support.

What happens when I move institution?

Although each N8 institution’s publications policy and implementation of Rights Retention is specific to that institution, the following principles apply for all:

  • The institution’s publication policy will apply to articles submitted for publication whilst the author or co-author is based at the institution. The license granted to the institution for an article under the institution’s publications policy is irrevocable, and so remains with the institution after an author leaves the institution.
  • However, this license is non‐exclusive, which means that authors can enter into new agreements with other institutions/parties.
  • In practice, a paper made Open Access via Rights Retention, shared under a CC BY license, can be freely downloaded and re-shared by other institutions.
  • It’s not possible to apply the institution’s publications policy retrospectively to papers already published when an author was previously affiliated with another institution.

Have publishers been made aware of the N8 Rights Retention Strategy?

Yes. In addition to the high profile Times Higher Education piece published as part of the N8 Rights Retention Strategy launch, each N8 institution has written directly to over 100 publishers to inform them of their revised publication policies and what this means in terms of Rights Retention. Letters have been sent using Royal Mail recorded or special delivery to ensure receipt.