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A practical guide to implementing RRS for researchers


Tangible steps for simple execution

In July 2022, with an update in January 2023, the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research launched a guide on Rights Retention Strategy (RRS).

The guide called "Implementing the rights retention strategy for scientific publications" is a tool designed for researchers and paves the way for immediate open access to articles at no additional cost, whatever the distribution model of the journal they are published in.

The Content is divided into five parts: 

In tangible terms, the practical aspects of a simple implementation are explained with details of the license required, the relationship with a publisher and how to deposit the accepted author manuscript in an open archive. The rights retention strategy is designed to ensure the rapid and unrestricted circulation of knowledge within the scientific community and beyond.

How does this guide help researchers align with certain funding agencies' Open Science policies?

The rights retention strategy is put forward by cOAlition S, a group of 28 research funding organisations that initiated Plan S. The French National Research Agency (ANR) and the European Commission, which is responsible for the Horizon Europe calls for projects, are among them. These organisations have decided to require that all research articles originating from the projects they fund be made available under open access and with an open licence at the time of publication. The rights retention strategy is in line with the open science policy of these institutions. The 27 EU Member States have supported this strategy in the Council Conclusions on Research assessment and implementation of Open Science, arguing that "the authors of research publications or their institutions should retain sufficient intellectual property rights to ensure open access, leading to broader dissemination, valorisation and reuse of results improving the fair balance of the publishing business models". France has included the rights retention strategy in its second National Plan for Open Science, launched in 2021. Several universities in Europe, including Cambridge University, Edinburgh University and the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), have already declared their support for it.

What advice would you give to researchers interested in implementing the rights retention strategy for their scientific publications? 

The publisher of the journal to which a researcher has submitted his manuscript may ask him to sign an exclusive copyright transfer agreement. If the researchers are in a position to discuss this with their publisher, they can ask that the terms of the agreement state that the various versions of their article, up to the version accepted for publication, will be freely licensed and that their intellectual property rights will only be assigned to the final version published by the publisher. If they are not in a position to amend the agreement, they can be reassured that applying the CC-BY license to the manuscript at the submission stage guarantees its legal precedence over any conditions that may later be set by the publisher. If they are funded by a member of cOAlition S, the funding agreement they have signed will further strengthen your position.

Practically, to allow immediate open access to their scientific publications, researchers must license their manuscript under a CC-BY licence. It is the most appropriate licence to implement the rights retention strategy. By doing this, they remain in control of its distribution and can immediately share it and make it available for open access regardless of the journal in which it is published.

The rights retention strategy thus offers more extensive and immediate open access than Article 30 of the French Digital Republic Law, which still allows for an "embargo" period of 6 to 12 months maximum, depending on the subject area. In this way, the publications are immediately shareable, citable, reusable and archived permanently. Applying a CC-BY licence to a scientific paper allows it to be deposited in an open archive immediately after publication. Long-term archiving is then guaranteed, even in the event that the journal it is published in should disappear. The attribution of a permanent identifier enables the immediate citation of results and protects against plagiarism. The CC-BY licence opens up sharing and reuse rights, provided that the authors are properly credited (this is the meaning of "BY", which refers to attribution, citation). In order to align with the open science policy of financing institutions. cOAlition S partners are committed to full and immediate open access, under an open licence, from the date of publication. The ANR requires this for awarded projects from the Action Plan 2022 onwards. In France, applying the rights retention strategy and depositing your AAM in an open archive allows researchers to meet this commitment, regardless of the journal's distribution model, even when it is a subscription-based journal.

How do you see the future of Open Science and academic publishing evolving, and how does the implementation of the rights retention strategy fit?

A change in national laws could break the grip of publishers on researchers' rights, it is the case in France with the French Digital Republic Law, even though it provides for an embargo period before publication. Institutions at the local level can also help their researchers retain their rights. Institutions are sometimes unaware that their researchers are freely assigning their copyrights to the detriment of the individual researcher, the institution and the general public. The indiscriminate assignment of these rights can be seen as a kind of academic profiteering. Which could be stopped by adopting a rights retention strategy. The development of alternative publishing models such as the ORE platform, SciPost or Episciences, for example, and the diamond model should provide by default immediate open access to peer-reviewed research publications under open licences.  

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