R & D project

Adopting and managing institutional rights retention policies

Supporting all higher education institutions in accelerating the implementation of institutional rights retention policies.

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Expected outcome:


Background to the project

Rights retention is an opportunity for the sector to challenge the existing paradigm. Implementation of funders’ rights retention policies has prompted some academic institutions to take even stronger steps towards supporting their researchers to retain rights by adopting IRRPs. This project translated an anecdotal need for support for the sector into a clear description of where Jisc could play a role in this space.

Why this matters

Author rights retention is a means for researchers and universities to regain “academic sovereignty over the publishing process.” (EUA, 2022) Transferring the original copyright holders’ rights to a publisher usually means that the authors’ rights to use the article are severely limited. Rights retention enables authors to retain sufficient rights to their own article manuscript, and to reuse their content as they see fit, such as within teaching and their own academic networks.

An IRRP typically confirms that members of staff own the copyright to their scholarly works and grant a licence to the University to make the Author Accepted Manuscript available via their repository under a Creative Commons (CC BY) licence. This automatic grant of licence ensures that research findings can be made open access at the earliest opportunity. The policy typically covers research articles and conference papers but may include other output types. An IRRP typically covers all members of the institution, not just those with research funding awards.

Supporting IRRPs aligns with Jisc’s business purposes including our commitment to:

  • Support open access publishing through the repository deposit route
  • Develop forward-looking sector requirements that advance open research
  • Empowering communities and encouraging conversations

What we did

We employed an external consultant to create validated and prioritised use cases that represent sector pain points for institutional rights retention policy (IRRP) adoption. These use cases were then discussed, refined and prioritised to reflect sector need at a series of online focus groups attended by representatives from across all Jisc bands, and formed the basis of a report which informed our decision to proceed further with the preparation and provision of support resources.

What we're working on now

The second phase of the project aims to support and accelerate the implementation of IRRPs within Jisc higher education institutions (HEIs). We will deliver a programme of engagement for HEIs that provides opportunities for knowledge and resource sharing, networking, peer support and guidance relating to implementation and post-implementation of IRRPs.

We will do this by encouraging, motivating and enabling member HEIs who have already instigated IRRPs to:

  • Share best practice around implementing an IRRP with other HEIs wishing to develop a similar approach eg, briefing papers, drafts of letters to publishers, lists of publisher email and postal addresses.
  • Set up a dedicated IRRP community network and make use of existing communication channels within Jisc and stakeholder institutions (eg RLUK and SCONUL)
  • Work closely with a members and stakeholders to keep focus on activities
  • Demonstrate support for rights retention and the move to open research
  • Monitor and evaluate our programme of activities
  • Deliver a programme that is time-bound (maximum 18 months) with review points

A task and finish group will inform the delivery of the programme of activity over the next six months, providing effective advice and guidance in support of the community. There will be an evaluation in July 2024 to then shape the second phase over 2024-25.

Get involved

Join our digital research community group to share ideas, ask questions, and access shared documentation.

Meet the project team

  • Sally Rumsey

    Open access expert and academic librarian, cOAlitionS ambassador
  • Azhar Hussain

    Head of product, open research services, Jisc
  • Anna Hughes headshot

    Anna Hughes

    Scholarly communications and engagement officer
  • Paola Marchionni headshot

    Paola Marchionni

    Head of engagement (content and discovery)