The University’s one-year rights retention pilot has been running for six months now, during which time many papers containing the rights retention declaration have been submitted by Cambridge authors. As expected, the Office of Scholarly Communication is receiving more queries about rights retention from Cambridge academics, many of which relate to how publishers are responding to submissions containing the rights retention declaration. This post covers some of these queries to offer a picture of how rights retention is being received.
It is worth reminding ourselves what the rights retention pilot entails. All researchers at Cambridge can sign up to participate in the pilot here. In doing so, the researcher enters into a non-exclusive agreement with the university to make all their papers immediately open access under a Creative Commons attribution (CC BY) licence. When a researcher submits an article to a publisher, they include the following statement in the acknowledgements or funding section of the article file:
‘For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission’
Upon editorial acceptance, the researcher uploads a copy of the accepted manuscript to Symplectic Elements. The Open Access team will deposit the manuscript into Apollo and will release it publicly at the appropriate time.
One of the primary fears researchers have regarding rights retention is that a publisher may editorially reject their article at the point of submission. While we are still dealing in small numbers of submissions and queries associated with the pilot, we have heard from at least two researchers that have been rejected from the journal at the point of submission due to rights retention language in their manuscript. In these cases, journals from the Seismological Society of America and the American Society of Hematology informed the respective authors that rights retention is not permitted because copyright transfer and an embargo period is required for publication in their journals. As a consequence, the authors in each case decided to submit to an alternative journal so that they could comply with their funder requirements. We are also aware of authors who received different answers from the American Society of Hematology, including to pay a fee or to accept rights retention. We hope rights retention will be approved in due course by the publisher as an acceptable route for all authors.
A second group of publishers have asked for the rights retention language to be removed either because they deemed it not necessary to comply with or because another compliant route was available to the authors. For example, a journal published by Springer Nature asked for the rights retention language to be removed because it was not required for compliance purposes (because the article was submitted prior to the relevant policy coming into effect). Journals published by Elsevier, the American Chemical Society and Optica all asked for the rights retention language to be removed because of pre-existing publishing agreements that allow Cambridge researchers to publish open access free of charge. In these instances, authors were willing to remove the language from the final published version and so it was not clear what would have happened if they had not done so. We have received advice that removing this wording does not negate the fact that the publisher has been informed of the prior licence and so rights retention is still permissible here. We are recommending that researchers include the rights retention declaration where possible even when publishers ask for it to be removed.
Despite the queries reported here, we have also seen a notable uptick in the number of submissions in the repository containing rights retention language, including within journals published by Elsevier, Wiley, Sage, Springer Nature, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Company of Biologists and JMIR Publications (to name a few). One journal published by the American Psychological Association was willing to accept immediate CC BY for UKRI-funded authors, although this was still subject to a copyright transfer agreement. In the case of Springer Nature, acceptance of the rights retention language also entailed payment of colour charges – something the authors had not anticipated and which we detailed further in this Twitter thread. We urge publishers to be as clear as possible about whether they accept rights retention and upon what conditions.
I am sharing this data because it offers a snapshot of some of the responses we have seen from publishers so far. While we encourage our researchers to report any publisher pushback, we cannot be sure of all publisher responses, simply because researchers are under no obligation to report them. It is interesting, though, that some publishers are asking researchers to remove the rights retention declaration when there is a publishing agreement in place. We can hypothesise that this is because publishers want to prevent as many articles as possible from using this language because it would set a precedent for other researchers without access to such agreements to use rights retention too. Given this, the Office of Scholarly Communication is continuing to advise that the declaration is included in all manuscripts where possible, although this will be down to how persistent an author wants to be in requesting the language be retained.