Rights retention

What is Rights Retention?

Rights retention is a funder initiative from cOAlition S.

Many funders, including UKRI (April 2022), the Wellcome Trust (January 2021), the NIHR (June 2022), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (January 2021) have Plan S aligned policies; which include a rights retention requirement.

Rights retention supports the green, or self-archiving route to open access. It enables researchers to publish a Version of Record with a publisher as well as depositing an author accepted manuscript in a repository, ensuring the widest possible access to research as well as meeting funder requirements.

What do researchers need to do?

Plan S funders typically have the following “routes” to Open Access publishing:

  1. Gold Open Access
    1. Publish in a fully open access journal and pay an APC for immediate gold open access for the version of record.
    2. Publish in a journal that provides gold open access via a Transformative Agreement. Publication costs are paid upfront as part of this deal. No individual APC is paid.
  2. Green Open Access
    1. Publish in a subscription/hybrid journal and use rights retention to apply a CC BY licence to your accepted manuscript, and deposit it in PURE. Your funder may also have an additional required repository for deposit, e.g. the Wellcome Trust requires EuropePMC. No individual APC is paid.

In order to use the Green route, the rights retention route, it is critically important to state on the submitted manuscript that a CC BY licence will be applied to the accepted version (AAM/post-print). It is via this statement which “rights” are “retained” to apply a CC BY licence to the AAM; inclusion of this statement within the submitted manuscript and the covering letter for submission makes it clear at the point of submission what licence you will apply to your author’s accepted manuscript.

If a CC BY licence is not in place for the AAM, then the paper will not be compliant with funder policy. The statement regarding the intention to apply a CC BY licence to the AAM is therefore required on all submitted manuscripts, and should also be included in the covering letter for clarity. An example form for this statement is below:

This research was funded in whole or in part by [FUNDER] [GRANT NUMBER]. For the purpose of Open Access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM) arising from this submission


Once the paper is accepted for publication, the author will need to deposit the accepted manuscript in PURE and any other funder required repositories. Making sure that it is available online, under the stated licence, by the time of publication.

Rights Retention Policy compliments other university policies surrounding Open Research:

For more information visit the Aberystwyth Open Access Webpages, or contact openaccess@aber.ac.uk

Depositing your accepted manuscript in PURE

As normal, upon acceptance, the accepted manuscript will need to be deposited in PURE however, please note that your funder may require you to also deposit elsewhere for full compliance. UKRI now requires that this deposit takes place within one month of acceptance.

Once a record has been created in PURE, a member of the Open Access Team will check when the paper was first submitted (if it is not obvious from the submission). This is to determine whether the new rights retention policy applies or not. They will then, also confirm with the author that the rights retention statement was included on the submitted manuscript and will ask for a confirmation that a rights agreement which prevents compliance with funder policy has not been signed.

Once confirmed, the accepted manuscript will be made available with a CC BY licence on the Aberystwyth Research Portal.

How are publishers responding to rights retention?

We are aware that researchers have experienced difficulties with some publishers when attempting to use the rights retention strategy.

While we are not aware of any journals which are actively refusing to consider papers which contain a rights retention statement, we encourage authors to contact us and their funder if they experience any difficulties, or have any questions about the process.

Below are some examples of publisher responses to rights retention:

The publisher asks the grant holder to agree to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) at the point of submission.

Authors should be aware that their funder will not pay these APCs. Authors are advised to contact the journal and ask for a fee waiver or consider publishing in another journal.

The publisher informs the authors that the licence of their accepted manuscript and their published paper must match, and therefore request payment for an APC. 

Authors should be aware that their funder will not pay these APCs. Authors are advised to contact the journal and ask for a fee waiver or consider publishing in another journal.

The publisher asks the corresponding authors to sign an agreement stating that they will not act in a way that goes against the journal’s self-archiving policy

Authors should be aware that signing agreements like this will prevent them from complying with their funder’s open access mandate; unless the journal’s self-archiving policy allows them to apply a CC BY licence to their accepted manuscript and deposit it in their funder’s preferred repository immediately upon acceptance with no embargo. Before signing any such agreements, authors should upload the accepted manuscript to PURE and contact the Open Access Team for advice.

The publisher suggests to authors that they publish in a different journal (which will either be fully open access or a ‘transformative’ journal, i.e. one where the funders will pay an APC)

Authors should be free to choose where they publish and should be aware that such suggestions may be a means to avoid rights retention, rather than a genuine suggestion of a more suitable journal.