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Rights Retention Pilot

This interview is reposted with agreement from the sOApbox blog. It is one of a series of blog posts outlining how different institutions are introducing rights retention policies to support their researchers in sharing their research as widely as possible.

In 2008 Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously to adopt a ground-breaking open access policy. Since then, over 70 other institutions, including other Harvard faculties, Stanford and MIT, have adopted similar policies based on the Harvard model. In Europe such institutional policies have, so far, been slow to get off the ground.

We are beginning to see that situation change.

The University of Cambridge has recently established a pilot rights retention scheme on an opt-in basis, with a view to informing the next revision of the University’s Open Access policy. In the following interview, Niamh Tumelty, Head of Open Research Services at the University of Cambridge, describes the purpose of the pilot, how researchers can benefit from it and shares her tips for any other institution that might consider adopting a similar policy.

cOAlition S: Could you, please, describe the author copyright policy you have adopted at your university?

Niamh Tumelty: We are inviting researchers to participate in a Rights Retention Pilot, which will run for one year starting April 2022. Participating researchers will grant the University a non-exclusive licence to the accepted manuscripts of any articles submitted during the pilot, making it easier for us to support them in meeting their funder requirements by uploading their manuscripts to our institutional repository, Apollo, without needing to apply an embargo. The pilot has launched using a CC BY approach as required by most cOAlition S funders, and we are exploring providing an option for alternative licences for researchers who do not have that specific requirement.

The researcher will notify the journal by including the rights retention statement on submission. When the paper has been accepted, the researcher will upload the accepted manuscript as normal via Symplectic Elements, indicating during the upload process that they have retained their rights. The Open Access team will do their usual checks, advise the researcher on what will happen next and arrange for the article to be made available on Apollo.

We will closely monitor what happens during the pilot and all participating researchers will be able to comment on their experiences. We will review all feedback and use it to inform our next review of our institutional open access policy.

cOAlition S: Why did the idea of adopting an institutional rights retention policy emerge?

Niamh Tumelty: The introduction of the requirement for immediate open access to research supported by cOAlition S funders has proven challenging in practice, with some publishers offering no compliant publishing route and others charging unsustainable prices for immediate open access to the final published version. Unless researchers want to move exclusively to publishing in journals that are diamond, fully gold or included within read & publish agreements, they need a way to retain sufficient rights, so that they always have the option to post their accepted paper online to achieve open sharing of their scholarship. Some disciplines have been left with little or no choice about where they can publish their research while meeting their funder requirements and their own goals for open research.

“The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience.”

cOAlition S: How was consensus reached across the institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The fact that immediate OA is now a funder requirement for the majority of our researchers made the conversation relatively easy. We held a number of discussions at the Open Research Steering Committee to ensure that we had as full an understanding as possible, providing examples of issues that were arising in the first year of the Wellcome Trust rights retention requirement in the absence of an institutional policy.

We considered developing an institutional opt-out policy as others have done but concluded that the highly devolved nature of the University of Cambridge would have made it extremely difficult to conduct a thorough consultation and reach consensus by the deadline of 1 April 2022. We agreed that the most appropriate next step at Cambridge was to run a pilot on an opt-in basis. A working group was established to design this pilot and included researchers from across a range of disciplines along with open access and scholarly communication experts from Cambridge University Libraries. The working group met every two weeks from mid-January to the end of March to consider the issue from different disciplinary perspectives and to develop the approach for the pilot. We drew heavily on the policy that was introduced at the University of Edinburgh earlier this year, learning also from the UK Scholarly Communications Licence and Model Policy and recommendations that have been publicly shared by Harvard University. We brought the proposed pilot to the University’s Research Policy Committee for comment and took legal advice on the detail of how we would approach this before launching.

The beauty of a pilot approach is that no researcher has to participate – they have a choice about whether or not to opt in and will have the opportunity to influence whatever policy is ultimately introduced across the university. We can take this year to really understand the issues in detail and to build consensus about the best approach for Cambridge.

cOAlition S: What challenges had to be overcome before it was agreed to adopt the policy?

Niamh Tumelty: The biggest challenge in the lead up to the pilot has been understanding and developing confidence in the rights retention strategy. The expert legal advice we received following the announcement of the Wellcome Trust requirements and again as we designed the detail of our approach was critical in enabling us to develop the pilot. Now, our challenge is to clearly communicate and explain rights retention to our many researchers as a route they can choose when publishing and to grapple with any issues that arise during the pilot year before developing any full institutional policy.

cOAlition S: What are the advantages of adopting the policy for your researchers and your institution?

Niamh Tumelty: The rights retention strategy is a key tool to enable researchers to openly publish in whatever journal will reach the most appropriate audience. It may be that some publishers decide to reject any papers in which the author has retained their rights, but this seems an unsustainable position given the growing number of authors whose funders require immediate open access for all outputs.

The advantage of a pilot approach rather than a full institutional policy is that it provides space and time for deep engagement across our highly devolved university. It creates a framework for the researchers that wanted to have an early route to support them in retaining their rights and for the open access team that advises and supports them. It enables us to generate evidence from our own researchers, to build confidence and trust and to refine the approach ahead of shaping a full institutional policy.

Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.”

cOAlition S: As a conclusion, what are your three top tips for any other university considering adopting a similar permissions-based Open Access policy to yours?

Niamh Tumelty: 1) Include a range of disciplinary perspectives from the earliest stages of planning. This early consideration will make it easier to tailor the messaging to different parts of the university, taking into account the different drivers and concerns that come into play. Make sure that the humanities perspective is included – too often in open research initiatives the humanities appear to be an afterthought, if considered at all.

2) Anticipate the questions that will be asked and make sure that you have clear and honest answers to those questions. Be honest and open about the fact that we are learning through the process (while building on the experiences of those who have gone before) and that there will be challenges. This enhances credibility and manages expectations as the policy beds in.

3) Have confidence in this approach! This is not new – researchers have been retaining their rights in this way for over a decade and it is becoming increasingly common practice across a range of institutions. Researchers are in a stronger position than they realise – if publishers want to continue getting this free content from our researchers, they will need to develop publishing routes that meet the needs of their academic communities.

Open Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Two Working Groups 

This piece by Dr. Meg Westbury (Librarian, Haddon Library) and Dr. Matthias Ammon (Research Support Librarian, Germanic Languages & Film) introduces the work of the open research workings groups in the humanities and qualitative social sciences.

During 2021, two working groups of the Open Research Steering Committee formed to explore disciplinary perspectives on open research. One working group focuses on concerns and interests in open research from the perspective of researchers in the School of Arts and Humanities, and the other focuses on perspectives of researchers engaged in qualitative inquiry mainly from the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences. In this newsletter article, we describe the goals, activities and outputs of each working group. 

Open Research in the Humanities 

The working group on open research in the humanities formed in summer 2021 and is chaired by Dr Emma Gilby, with support from Dr Matthias Ammon. Four meetings were held in which the group discussed ways to make some of the underlying principles of open research – which have often been based on scholarly communication in STEMM subjects (as for example defined by the League of European Research Universities as the ‘8 Pillars of Open Science’) – more applicable to humanities research. This included meeting with academic publishers to discuss the future of scholarly communication in an Open Access landscape. The group is currently working on a report summarising the result of its discussions. 

Open Qualitative Research 

The working group on open qualitative research was formed in autumn 2021 and will have its first meeting in January 2022. The group is chaired by Dr Meg Westbury and has representatives from Criminology, Education, Geography, Social Anthropology, Sociology and the OSC. Over the next few months, the working group will consider how tenets of open research – such as open access, open data and research integrity – can be understood in terms of the ethics and priorities of qualitative researchers who seek to interpret and represent the complex lived experiences of social groups. By the end of the summer, the working group hopes to produce a report with recommendations for how open research might become more embedded in the research culture of qualitative researchers at Cambridge. 

In sum, we are optimistic that both working groups will be able to formulate recommendations for how open research might be understood, operationalised and/or reimagined for scholars across a wide-range of epistemologies and methodological approaches at the university

Open access success stories: interview with Dr. Jacqui Stanford

#ProtestingSewell at the Conservative Party Conference October 2021. All Rights Reserved.

For this post, Katherine Burchell talks to Dr Jacqui Stanford about the success of her open access doctoral thesis: Identities in Transition: theorising race and multicultural success in school contexts in Britain. The thesis is available to download from Apollo here:

Thanks for agreeing to talk about your research. Could you please describe what your PhD thesis is about?

I am interested in how we build a harmonious society given the challenges of our past of chattel slavery and colonialism. As a Black educator of Caribbean heritage, I also have a particular professional interest in schools that are successful for Black children. However, I’ve never been interested in a ten-point list of ‘how to build successful schools’; there was a lot of that in the late 1990s when I turned to graduate studies. And that project seemed to be inconsistent with necessary, actual and sustainable outcomes in schools. Furthermore, that project did not access or address the complexities introduced by race. Yet, as a microcosm of society, schools necessarily had developed strategies that addressed race, especially if they were harmonious spaces, where everyone could be successful.

For my PhD, I was very much interested in writing process, ie, zeroing in and exploring the complexities of transitioning from one thing to another. For example, I was very interested in white teachers and how they imagined – perhaps actually practised – but particularly how they articulated – transition from a past beset by the challenges of race to a context that was considered successful for Black and minority ethnic young people – as well as themselves. I also wanted to see what Black and white identities looked like in these contexts.

Methodological and analytical approaches were paramount in my research enterprise. I was not content with taking up established ideas. I focused on building theories at every stage of the project: a theory for research, ie, for doing race research, and for doing race research in Britain; a theory for analysing data on race; a theory for teachers’ explanations that transformed their personal stories into universal ideas. In other words, I was focused on developing and delineating generic ideas for negotiating race and racial identities as well as philosophical ideas about actually doing race research, as much as I was on delineating ideas about success in the school contexts I researched.

Has open access helped promote your work?

To begin, I remember feeling such discontent back then, and actually writing it in my thesis, that all the tremendous effort would just end up on a shelf in the UL. For me, the award of a PhD was a bonus on top of the actual experience of learning, growing and fashioning another world through research. The PhD was not just the work needed for the award of a qualification; I was intentionally seeking to articulate the aforementioned theories and understanding of the world.  I am glad I did. For following my PhD, lecturing and working internationally in policymaking, activism and community development took precedence over writing. Now, in the wake of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, as we begin to seek ways to understand and address the racial past, I find myself instinctively returning to my PhD, revisiting theories on whiteness and blackness, how to negotiate challenges posed by race and create harmonious multicultural spaces.

I also note the irrepressible urgency, and opportunity, currently growing in society to grapple with the past. This encouraged me to make my thesis open access in Summer 2020, and I am pleased to see that it has attracted strong interest, from a range of countries, and especially from old colonial countries such as the USA, France, Belgium as well as the UK. And I am definitely interested to note that it has attracted attention from China.

Do you feel open access has helped you reach marginalised groups that your work discusses?

It would seem that my work is reaching marginalised groups, in addition to groups that, though arguably not marginalised, have urgent need for research insight. Here, for example, I would highlight white teachers faced with the responsibility of teaching Britain’s past in the wake of Black Lives Matter etc. The thesis has interest for various groups positioned in various ways in the present historical moment, both here in the UK, and in other countries with whom we share a colonial past, and with others simply seeking information on it.

How has the work been taken up in policy? (Do you feel open access has been helpful in policy?)

I have had opportunity to contribute to government policy here in the UK and internationally over the years, and it has been gratifying to see viewings of my thesis from countries where I have worked. While there has been good indication of interest from the UK, it is noticeable that viewings from the US in particular, is very strong. The ideas in my thesis underpinned international travel and work in the US lecturing, and activism as well as contributing to President Obama’s Race to the Top education policy as a reviewer. So, I am very pleased that open access has made my thesis accessible there, especially as it is also being accessed.

Here in the UK, my thesis was used to evidence arguments made in submission to the recent government consultation for the Sewell Report, aka Race Report published in March2021. Controversially, like other submissions, it was not listed in the acknowledgment; nevertheless, my PhD was offered and reviewed as an example of how we create successful multicultural schools and society. There was a significant uptick in viewings of my thesis following submission, dramatically so after publication of the report. Perhaps there is a link between the events.

It certainly feels as if the time has come to share my exploration of the UK’s history of race and schooling in relation to government policymaking, and specifically my thorough going examination of Tony Sewell’s seminal text which anticipated the Commission on Race and Ethnic and Disparities’ report. It is certainly the case that my PhD informs my current #ProtestingSewell campaign, which denounces the report as a source of legislation and policymaking on race in the UK today.

Additional Notes

On the strength of my PhD, I was the first person in my Cambridge Education department to be a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow having been the first person to be awarded the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship. This followed the ESRC award for my PhD as well as other awards including the three-year Isaac Newton Award for young researchers, and the Barbadian High Commission award for Outstanding Students of Caribbean Heritage studying in Britain.


Jacqui Stanford: Having suffered life-changing injuries while working as a professor in the US, I am presently in rehabilitation, focusing on opportunities to make ideas and theories generated in my thesis widely available.

Katherine Burchell is Scholarly Communication Support at the Office of Scholarly Communication at Cambridge University Libraries