Apollo achieves CoreTrustSeal certification!

We are delighted to share the fantastic news that Apollo, the University of Cambridge’s institutional repository, achieved CoreTrustSeal certification in May 2023.

In 2020, Apollo was one of 10 repositories selected to take part in FAIRsFAIR Repository Support Programme through an open call to obtain CoreTrustSeal (CTS) certification. As a result, the Repository team was awarded funding to support the required certification activities.

What does this mean for Apollo?

CTS is an international, community based, non-governmental, and non-profit organisation that promotes sustainable and trustworthy data infrastructures. CTS is a self-assessment status for repositories, awarded based on meeting 16 requirements that reflect the characteristics of trustworthy repositories.

The achievement of CTS status for Apollo is a particularly important milestone, and one that is critical to several areas currently being developed as part of a wider Open Research Infrastructure programme led by Cambridge University Libraries (CUL).

Following certification, the Libraries are in a much stronger position to demonstrate the value of Apollo to key internal stakeholders, as well as our research communities. More importantly, CTS provides us with the opportunity to not only demonstrate the trustworthiness and robustness of the systems and processes involved in curating, making available, and preserving the University’s research outputs for the long-term, but also to meet funder requirements which are increasingly requiring more open practices and the deposit of publicly funded outputs in repositories with a trustworthy status.

The certification preparation and submission has been a remarkable collaborative effort across teams within Digital Initiatives and the Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) and has provided our services with a fantastic opportunity to assess all processes and policies relevant to the delivery of our repository and data services. This work has involved reviewing all existing processes, workflows and underpinning policies, and more importantly, identifying areas where policies did not exist and subsequently developing them and making them publicly available where appropriate. It has also led to a full review, update, and improvement of key Apollo service pages.

This work has been critical to formalising key policies and demonstrating best practice for system management and service delivery, which has led to continuous improvement and further professionalisation of key services supporting Cambridge’s open research communities.

Towards better support for our research communities

For Apollo and underpinning services, it is not only about achieving certified status. It is important that researchers, and our user communities, do trust Apollo and are reaffirmed about the University of Cambridge’s commitment to preserve its research outputs for the long-term and ensure widest possible access, following the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) principles:

Findable: we know that content in the repository scores high in search results on Google and Google Scholar and receive large numbers of downloads based on our use of COUNTER-compliant usage tracking services such as IRUS UK.

Accessible: as outlined in Apollo’s succession plan and digital preservation policy, CUL strives to maintain the availability of deposited works in Apollo indefinitely. Apollo’s core activities include the preservation, curation, and dissemination of the research outputs it holds with the aim of guaranteeing that all content entrusted to it by depositors remains suitable for the needs of its primary users now and in the future. Once a research output is published in Apollo, a persistent Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is minted and associated with the output.

Interoperable: Apollo makes use of open, community-driven, and well-adopted standards and technologies: all public content is available via a REST (REpresentational State Transfer) API (Application Programming Interface) and high-quality metadata for repository content is available via OAI-PMH and DataCite Search endpoints. This is critical to ensure continued access, dissemination, and the long-term availability of research outputs being produced and shared via institutional, research repositories.

Reusable: to reassure our users that they are accessing and using quality data, we provide careful and detailed guidance for data depositors about how to make their data FAIR, clearly outline the review and quality checks we perform upon submission, as well as require that every repository submission must include some human-readable documentation.

Find out more

More detailed information about Apollo and CoreTrustSeal is available in the following pages:

Apollo, trustworthy digital repository

Apollo’s CoreTrustSeal application (full application)



We would like to acknowledge the support of FAIRsFAIR in our CoreTrustSeal certification journey. FAIRsFAIR is playing a key role in the contribution to policies and practices for broader adoption of FAIR practices, and in the development of standards for FAIR certification of repositories.

The Team

Dr Agustina Martínez-García, Head of Open Research Systems, Digital Initiatives

Dr Sacha Jones, Research Data Manager, OSC

Peter Sutton-Long, Repository Manager, Digital Initiatives

Caylin Smith, Head of Digital Preservation, Digital Initiatives

Digital Services’ DevOps team, Digital Initiatives

Rights retention built into Cambridge Self-Archiving Policy

We’re delighted to announce that the University of Cambridge has a new Self-Archiving Policy, which took effect from 1 April 2023.  The policy gives researchers a route to make the accepted version of their papers open access without embargo under a licence of their choosing (subject to funder requirements). We believe that researchers should have more control over what happens to their own work and are determined to do what we can to help them to do that.

This policy has been developed after a year-long rights retention pilot in which more than 400 researchers voluntarily participated. The pilot helped us understand the implications of this approach across a wide range of disciplines so we could make an informed decision. We are also not alone in introducing a policy like this – Harvard has been doing it since 2008, cOAlition S have been a catalyst for development of similar policies, and we owe a debt of gratitude to the University of Edinburgh for sharing their approach with us. 

Some of the issues that cropped up during the pilot were outlined by Samuel Moore, our Scholarly Communications Specialist, in an earlier post on the Unlocking Research blog.  The patterns we saw at that stage continued throughout the year-long pilot – there was no issue for most articles, but some publishers caused confusion through misinformation or by presenting conflicting licences for the researchers to sign. We do recognise that there are costs involved in high quality publishing, and we are willing to cover reasonable costs (while noting our concerns around inequities in scholarly publishing).   The fact is that some publishers are trying to charge the sector multiple times for the same content – subscription fees, OA fees, other admin fees – all while receiving free content courtesy of researchers that are usually funded by the taxpayer and charity funders. 

Many researchers and funders are understandably becoming firmer in their convictions that publicly funded research should be openly and publicly available. We are fortunate that at Cambridge we are in a position to support this through our support for diamond publishing initiatives (in which the costs of publishing are absorbed for example by universities and no fees are charged to the reader or the author), through read and publish agreements negotiated on behalf of the UK higher education sector and through payment of costs associated with publishing in fully open access venues. Rights retention gives researchers a back-up plan for when other routes are not available to them, e.g. when a journal moves unexpectedly out of a read and publish agreement or a publisher does not offer any publishing route that meets their funder requirements. 

This is not the end goal, we have work to do to reach an equitable approach to global scholarly publishing, and we can learn a lot especially from how South America approaches these issues. We welcome opportunities to work together with others around the world to create a more sustainable and equitable future for scholarly communications.

Read more about the new Cambridge Self-Archiving Policy on the Cambridge Open Access website.

Should the UK make a deal with Springer Nature?

This is a guest post by Prof. Stephen J. Eglen on the concurrent negotiations between the UK academic sector and the publisher Springer Nature. Prof. Eglen is a Fellow of Magdalene College and Professor of Computational Neuroscience in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. This post does not necessarily reflect the view of Cambridge University Libraries.

The UK academic sector is currently in discussion with Springer Nature around a renewed ‘read and publish’ deal for journal content. I understand that most institutions are likely to reject the current deal, but wish to continue negotiations. My position is that further discussions with Springer Nature are futile; we should stop accepting ‘transformative deals’. The likely effect of this deal would be that more of Springer Nature’s content may be openly available to read, but with the ‘paywall’ shifted to the publish side. Here I list my key objections:

  1. There is still no justification for the high APCs (9500 EUR + taxes) for Nature tier journals. Accepting a deal, regardless of the level of discounts that could be achieved, is implicitly accepting their business model. Springer Nature declined to engage with the Journal Comparison Service run by cOAlition S that aims to help understand how costs are determined.
  2. Springer Nature’s view is that ‘gold OA’ is the only viable way to open access. Other models for open access are available, and show promise, including diamond OA journals and Subscribe to Open. However, Springer Nature assert that “they haven’t found a way of making them financially sustainable”.  If we accept a gold-only view of open access,  how can we objectively assess the sustainability of alternative models?
  3. A move to a ‘gold only’ OA world would shift the barrier from reading to publishing content. Springer Nature recently announced a waiver policy for researchers from about 70 lower income countries. This still excludes many researchers worldwide e.g. from Brazil and South Africa, perpetuating neo-colonial attitudes towards the creation of scholarly content and reinforcing existing institutional inequalities within countries. Any waiver programme for APCs should be “no-questions-asked” regardless of where researchers are based. This would need to be properly costed and part of the justification of the APC (point 1).
  4. As of January 2023, several UK institutions have rights retention policies in place, with more expected to follow in the coming months. Individual researchers can also use rights retention strategy by themselves. Rights retention statements allow researchers to meet UK funder’s requirement by depositing their author-accepted manuscript without embargo. I believe Springer Nature should publicly state that they will allow any author worldwide to maintain their rights on their own author-accepted manuscripts.
  5. Over half of Springer Nature’s hybrid journals failed to meet their 2021 targets for open access articles within hybrid journals.  Those hybrid journals that fail again this year to meet their targets will be removed from cOAlition S’s transformative journal program.  Having some journals ineligible for cOAlition S funding but part of a UK read-and-publish deal would further complicate an already confusing system.  It would also question Springer Nature’s commitment to open access.

A detailed public critique of the deal is not possible because of the confidential nature of the negotiations.  Finances aside, I feel there was one element that was simply unworkable and unethical due to it requiring scholars to keep one aspect confidential if the deal were accepted.

The UK is one of only a few countries with a  heavy reliance on transformative agreements.  Sweden has already decided that transformative agreements are not sustainable and the transition period should finish at the end of 2024. Coalition S has also confirmed it will end its support of hybrid journals by the end of 2024. I would like to see the UK move away from transformative agreements. We could instead work internationally to promote more ethical and sustainable alternatives that put scholars at the heart of scholarly communication. In particular, the APC model has been tried, and introduces as many headaches as it has tried to solve. 

It is time instead to try new approaches.  There are several interesting models being developed by forward-looking organizations that the UK could endorse.  For example, MIT press recently launched shift+OPEN as a way to flip subscription based journals to diamond open access model.  Another interesting approach is Subscribe to Open where journals drop their paywall if a threshold amount of subscriptions are received.  Money saved on dealing with legacy publishers like Springer Nature is better spent investing in our own infrastructure and new approaches.