Thanks to Dr Dorka Tamas Postdoctoral Research Assistant (Open Research Case Studies) for pulling this blogpost together.

On 7 February, Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation introduced the updated University of Leeds Publications Policy that came into effect on 1 January 2023, and which supports researchers to retain the intellectual property of their work. Nick emphasised how the updated policy complements the Open Research Statement to support an inclusive and collaborative research culture.

Following Nick’s introduction, Claire Knowles, Associate Director: Research and Digital Futures, welcomed Dr Theo Andrew from the University of Edinburgh, to talk about how and why their Rights Retentions policy was developed and lessons learned since its launch. Claire went on to discuss how we updated the Publication Policy at Leeds.  

Full event recording on YouTube: Open for good: rights retention at the University of Leeds

In November 2022, Leeds launched the Knowledge Equity Network (KEN) at a hybrid event with representatives from more than 100 institutions and 35 countries. Higher education institutions have a collective responsibility to ensure that we get knowledge to those who need it and they can use it and Nick explained how KEN sits at the centre of University strategy, aiming to foster collaboration and reduce inequalities.     

To achieve these goals, Leeds needs to create a culture where its staff are empowered and supported, and to put in place a framework that enables research outputs to be published openly and equitably. Nick noted the importance of the Research Culture and Library teams, and their work to promote open research and education.

Along with the Research Culture and Open Research statements, the updated University of Leeds Publications Policy and Rights Retention strategy together set out the values we should aspire to from our institutions, to value their staff, the work they do and how it can help improve lives.    

Rights retention in practice: what the University of Edinburgh has achieved after 12 months  

Theo, Scholarly Communication Manager at the University of Edinburgh, highlighted the progress made since The University of Edinburgh’s Rights Retention policy was launched in 2022. He emphasised that Rights Retention is about authors retaining their rights to enable them to disseminate their publications effectively through open access, whether by depositing on a preprint server, in an institutional repository or other appropriate platform. Over the years there have been several different approaches to retaining authors’ rights such as adding an addendum to their publication agreements as promoted by SPARC. However, recently we have seen research funders like the Wellcome Trust and UKRI introduce rights retention statements with open access language to be included within publications when they are submitted. There have also been institutional approaches, for example, Harvard in the United States.

The University of Edinburgh decided to go for an institutional approach to make it easy for authors while Theo also acknowledged that the existing publications policy was outdated and needed updating to align with research funders and move towards open access.     

In many cases, Edinburgh wasn’t able to provide immediate open access through the APC model, and needed a tool to legally enable authors to make the work OA with no embargo. This was the motivation to introduce their Right Retention policy, which confirms that University of Edinburgh researchers own the copyright to their scholarly works.     

“Copyright status has been ambiguous at Edinburgh for several years: under UK employment law, the employers own the copyright to anything that happens during work time, however, in custom and practice we never asked authors to do that.”     

Once the article has been accepted for publication, it allows the University to deposit the accepted manuscripts into Pure and make the article metadata available immediately upon deposit. The policy was introduced on 1st January 2022.

In preparation for the launch, Edinburgh updated the policy language to reflect the new UKRI open access policy, which came into effecton 1 April 2022. Then from January to April they communicated the new policy to authors with a series of internal seminars across different schools and faculties. They also contacted publishers to inform them of the University’s pre-existing rights and developed guidance on an opt-out processes, which may be applicable where an author doesn’t have permission to share the manuscript from their co-authors, for example, or they require a different license. There could also be a situation where an article can’t be shared in its entirety due to third-party copyright. Since the policy came into effect, however, only five researchers have chosen to opt out.

Statement of intent

Edinburgh sent around 160-170 letters to publishers. The response rate was low with five positive replies and three stating that if Edinburgh wanted to use a CC-BY license, it would be necessary to pay (this has in fact not materialised, which is the very point of rights retention.) Two publishers responded ambiguously with follow-up questions about where it applies. There was one negative response from a publisher based in the United States, who didn’t necessarily understand the open-access landscape in the UK. In this instance Theo and his colleagues were able to turn the aggressive formal letter into a productive conversation. Some publishers have begun to assert that their license supersedes any other prior agreements, but this is unlikely to be legally defensible.   

This issue has been addressed recently in a discussion thread on Twitter, in the context of Taylor & Francis, which Johan Rooryk of cOAlition S describes as “totious interference” i.e. procuring a breach of contract. There is also useful analysis from Sally Rumsey on th ecOAlition S blog: T&F copyright advice. Author, beware.

“We spent a lot of time and effort to contact and published to let them know, with this in place we feel able and empowered to proceed on that basis. We aim to have an annual review of the policy to see what went well and tighten up some of the wording of the policy, which is due to take place in April 2023.”     

The first nine months

Over the first nine months, Edinburgh researchers published 4500 journal articles, of which roughly 3500 were open access. Of these, around 500-600 were embargoed for between 6-12 months – so compliant with the REF open access policy – and had been submitted before the new policy came into place. They also found that some were made immediately open-access prior to formal publication on preprint servers like arXiv. There is a single research output record for the preprint version and the journal article so it’s difficult to disentangle. There were only 200 closed publications.     

Theo finished his talk by noting that they have had widespread engagement with their academic community and talked directly to thousands of authors. They are working to embed the process into the daily routine of publication, which has enabled them to publish about 90% of Edinburgh research through an open access route within one month of publication.     

Rights retention at Leeds and the N8

The previous Publications Policy dated from 2014 – updated in 2015 – and mainly applied to peer-reviewed research outputs so, like Edinburgh’s, it was in need of an update. Like Nick, Claire emphasised that the work on the Publications Policy and a commitment to make outputs freely accessible aligns with open research, with the Open Research Statement launched at a previous event in January: Introducing the University of Leeds Open Research Statement.

The Rights Retention component of the policy is part of a joint initiative across the N8 which was launched in Manchester on 24th January: N8 Rights Retention Statement

Inevitably there are some differences in approach between the different universities but collaboration ensures a unified message. Claire and Leeds are very grateful for the support of colleagues across the N8, as well as the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge. Everyone has learned from each other and will continue to do so.  

What’s new?

The three new points highlighted in the policy are:     

  1. Authors must specify authors’ contributions in all research outputs to ensure individuals’ roles are identifiable and duly recognised.     
  1. Authors must include a Data Access Statement.     
  1. Authors must retain the necessary rights to make the accepted manuscripts of research articles, including reviews and conference papers, publicly available under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.     

Additionally, if an author acknowledges receipt of UKRI funding or Wellcome Trust, they should follow their specific policies, which are in any case very much in line with one another, and now with the University of Leeds and the N8. The intention is to make it simpler for authors, not more confusing.     

Like Edinburgh, Leeds will also make its position clear to the publishers through official correspondence.

The University of Leeds, in particular the Library, is here to support authors; if you encounter any resistence of pushback from a publisher regarding rights retention, please get in touch: