Go back

Academics to take control of copyright


UK universities are preparing to implement an institutional open-access policy that would allow researchers to retain important rights to their work, Research Fortnight can reveal.

The UK Scholarly Communications Licence, which has been the subject of negotiations between universities and publishers for two years, is in the final stages of development. More than 100 universities are involved in the discussions, and about 20 have already agreed in principle to adopt the licence through their governing bodies or research committees, Research Fortnight understands.

Academics at institutions that adopt the UK-SCL will be able to retain the rights to deposit their articles into an open-access repository, and use them for teaching and conferences, while assigning some copyright to publishers where necessary.

But before going ahead, institutions want to coordinate with UK Research and Innovation, which is to carry out a review of its open-access policies by the end of the year.

Chris Banks, the director of library services at Imperial College London, who is leading the UK-SCL initiative, said UKRI “appears to be looking at how the UK-SCL might help open access”.

Stuart Taylor, publishing director at the Royal Society and a member of the UK-SCL steering group, said the initiative “is a welcome attempt to speed up the communication of research and helps to simplify compliance with institutional and funder mandates”.

The UK-SCL is based on the so-called Harvard model used by about 70 institutions, mostly in the United States. Publishers can ask for exemptions, but have done so only 5 per cent of the time in the US, according to the UK-SCL steering committee.

The UK Publishers Association has expressed reservations, and has demanded a blanket embargo period in line with the research councils’ current open-access policies. This means researchers may still not be able to make taxpayer-funded research openly available until six to 12 months after publication.

Publishers benefit from a block grant from the research councils to take publicly funded research out of their paywalls. Should UK-SCL not require an embargo, researchers could make more outputs openly available immediately for free.

Emma House, deputy chief executive of the Publishers Association, said concerns remained about “the potential complexity around how waivers and exemptions might be managed”.

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight and a version also appeared in Research Europe