Open research

Supporting open access publishing by rights retention: Imperial College London

To support the launch of Jisc’s Institutional Rights Retention Policy (IRRP) Teams channel, Ruth Harrison (Head of Scholarly Communications Management at Imperial College London) shares her experience of developing and implementing Imperial’s policy. We hope that her experience will support others similarly tasked.

This post aims to present some practical advice based on my experience implementing our Research Publications Open Access Policy at Imperial. My caveat is that it isn’t legal advice, and so your institution should do due diligence as part of the implementation process. It would be best to take legal advice where possible and available.

Where do you start?

At Imperial, we started conversations about an IRRP several years ago, and generally in the context of aiming to help academics tackle the complexity of open access policies. That frames discussion about an IRRP very much in a ‘compliance’ setting, and the landscape has shifted. Open access to research should, and is increasingly, being talked about in terms of equity of access, both for reading and publishing, and this is definitely where the impetus is for rights retention policies.

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Selling the benefits to your authors

While you may start to feel bogged down by policy conversations, and working out how to explain what an IRRP is, try and think about the benefits up front. Rights retention has become a very commonly-used phrase, and can cause confusion because it sounds as if an institution is making a ‘grab’ for authors rights. This is not the case. What an IRRP should aim to do is support authors in asserting their copyright to their research outputs and do so in a way that means equitable access to their work where others cannot pay to access it, and maintain author choice to publish in the journal they want to.

With copyright to the accepted manuscript retained, authors can reuse the content of their manuscripts for teaching and research without seeking further permissions. For example, an author could reproduce a table or figure in their teaching materials, or in a presentation.

How to integrate an IRRP at your institution

What is your local policy context for open access, copyright, intellectual property (IP) and publication management? This will all feed in to how your IRRP can be implemented. Imperial has had an open access policy for over a decade, but no specific research outputs/publications policy – so our IRRP is effectively an amendment of our open access policy. The policy asks that any output that can be made open access is deposited appropriately, and the rights retention element applies explicitly to journal articles and conference proceedings.

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So to help decide how you should integrate an IRRP at your institution, think about the following questions:

  1. Do you already have a publications or open access policy in which rights retention could be incorporated?
  2. Or if you have neither of these policies, do you want to have a publications or open access policy addressing a number of issues including rights retention?

What other institutional policies should you consider?

To successfully implement an IRRP, you need to know what institutional policies already exist for intellectual property (IP) and copyright. In some institutions the default position is that authors retain their copyright and IP for research outputs, and if this is the case at your institution, it is likely that you will find implementing an IRRP means you will have to make very minor changes to these policies.

Where there isn’t clarity, that is where you will need to do more investigation to establish how your institution’s IP policy could be amended to enable an IRRP to work alongside it.

Alongside IP and copyright policies, it is important to think about how authors will be able to participate in the policy. An IRRP will be an institutional policy in the same way that there are other policies, such as the IP policy already referred to, but also there will be policies ranging from appropriate ICT use to annual leave. As an employee those are policies which apply to staff without having to actively ‘opt-in’ and the IRRP is the same. So you might want to also check whether the IRRP policy should be actively added to any employment terms, depending on how other policies are referred to.

All this means you may need to speak to human resources (HR) colleagues, legal advisors and union and staff network representatives to make sure everyone understands the benefits of an IRRP, and to ensure all local considerations are taken into account.

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Who will the policy be aimed at?

You also need to think about to whom the policy will apply – at Imperial our IP policy applies to staff and students, and we chose to include students in our IRRP to be consistent. Many of our students who publish choose open access journals already, but especially for those where their funding requires open access, the IRRP means they can also use the deposit route for open access. I should note this does not apply to their theses or dissertations, those should be managed separately.

Other institutions have not included students in their policy, so it will depend on your local context.

Making the IRRP work for your authors

Key to implementing an IRRP in the UK is that publishers must receive prior notification of the author’s intention to make their accepted manuscript available in a repository. Many authors who are funded by UKRI and Wellcome Trust (and other funders) are becoming used to including what are referred to as ‘rights retention statements’ on their manuscripts at submission, and institutions implementing an IRRP can take different approaches to maintaining this prior notification.

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The following key points are what you need to consider in both your planning and implementation workflow:

  • Authors will retain copyright over their work
  • Under an IRRP, the right being granted is that of allowing an institution to make the accepted manuscript openly available in a repository without an embargo
  • Publishers need to be informed when an institution is going to implement a rights retention policy
  • On behalf of all those to whom the policy applies, the institution will notify publishers of the policy

You will be able to access templates of letters to notify publishers which have been used at other institutions (see link to the Jisc IRRP channel at the end of this article). Any notification letter ought to have input from a legal service. And consider who your letter signatory will be as it is important to note that the IRRP will be an institutional policy – the signatory does not have to be within the library. At Imperial, for example, the letter itself was signed by the Provost.

Communicating the policy

To contact publishers, you will be sending out the notification letters by post, so you will need to find out the postage costs. Make sure you remember to include a return address for any undelivered mail! At Imperial we also sent a copy of the letter by email from the Director of Library Services.

You should plan for internal communications, dependent on your local context, so that you know who you’d like to contact when leading up to the date of implementation of the policy. An internal communications team should be able to help with university-wide communications.

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Some examples from Imperial:

  • we wrote a blog post prior to the policy being implemented
  • we spoke with our Faculty Research Committees before and after it was implemented
  • we ran briefing sessions for our liaison teams
  • we have talked to various departments and research groups
  • we worked with our communications team to produce a video explaining the policy for staff and students

If you work for a UK higher education institution, please feel free to access the Jisc Digital Research community IRRP channel (request access here) where we are discussing the issues of implementing IRRP policy and where we have shared several templates of letters, presentations and workflows and a publisher contact list. You can also register for our webinar on 30 May (this is where the recording will be deposited post event) and look out for our next one on 27 June (registration will open a few weeks prior to the event).

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