Open AccessRights Retention Strategy

What is the Rights Retention Strategy?

The Rights Retention Strategy (RRS): a mechanism to make immediate Open Access the default scholarly communications standard

In September 2018 a group of mostly European research funders grouped under the 'cOAlition S' banner launched a plan to accelerate the transition towards a fully Open Access publishing landscape.

Both the Wellcome Trust and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are members of this cOAlition S and have adopted the Open Access policies associated to Plan S. These updated Open Access policies apply to all their funded researchers – from January 2021 in the case of the Wellcome Trust and for manuscripts submitted from 1 April 2022 in the case of UKRI.

Plan S comprises a number of parallel initiatives. The most ambitious of these is the promotion of the so-called "transformative agreements" with publishers (also known as Read & Publish deals) that allow researchers at signatory institutions to publish Gold Open Access at no cost in a (large) number of eligible journals covered under the deal.

There are also new developments in the area of Green Open Access (deposit of the full-text accepted manuscript in an institutional system) whereby cOAlition S-member funders are trying to move away from embargo periods. This webpage focuses on this latter development (for more info on the R&P deals see the specific Strathclyde webpage linked above).

Summary: Complying with the UKRI Open Access policy

For OA publishers where no Read and Publish deal currently is agreed, UKRI-funded authors should follow one of the following routes for OA publication:

  • Route 1: publishing Gold Open Access: in order for the library to be able to pay the Open Access publishing fee for a UKRI-funded manuscript, the journal needs to be fully Open Access.
  • Route 2: Rights Retention: depositing a copy of the full-text accepted manuscript under a no embargo period and a CC BY licence

*As an example for IEEE, with whom we have no current Read and Publish deal, see the Factsheet on Complying with the Complying with the UKRI Open Access policy for EPSRC-funded manuscripts.


The RRS is the mechanism envisioned by a group of mainly European national funders – the Wellcome Trust and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) among them – to promote the deposit of full-text accepted manuscripts in institutional systems upon manuscript acceptance under no embargo and under a Creative Commons licence. The RRS is seen as a free and complementary approach to the promotion of paid-for Gold Open Access (either via the payment of Article Processing Charges or via ‘Transformative’ or ‘Read & Publish’ agreements with publishers) so that all of their funded research outputs become openly available for free as soon as the manuscripts get published in a journal.

Both the Wellcome Trust and the UKRI have already included this strategy in their updated Open Access policies -- applicable to journal articles submitted from Jan 1st, 2021 for the updated Wellcome Open Access policy and to articles submitted from Apr 1st, 2022 as per the recently released review for the UKRI OA policy (date of the announcement Aug 6th, 2021). The RRS is also endorsed by the European Commission for projects run under the Horizon Europe research framework programme, see page 108 under “Open science: open access to scientific publications” on the Horizon Europe General Model Grant Agreement (pdf) version 1.1 dated 15 Dec 2021).

Free Green Open Access, i.e. the deposit of full-text accepted manuscripts upon manuscript acceptance in an institutional repository, was already an accepted mechanism to comply with the Wellcome and UKRI Open Access policies. The new development is that embargo periods are no longer accepted by research funders behind Plan S, who also want the accepted manuscripts for publications stemming from their funded projects to be deposited under a Creative Commons licence, ideally a CC BY 4.0.

No. The RRS only applies when there is no way to make a paper Gold Open Access via the Read & Publish deals that universities are signing with publishers. These increasingly widespread deals allow any manuscript with a Strathclyde corresponding author accepted in a list of eligible hybrid journals to be published Gold Open Access at no cost for the authors. The lists of eligible journals by publisher are being made available from the section devoted to Read & Publish agreements on our ‘Funding Open Access’ website.

Read & Publish agreements (aka Transformative Agreements or TAs) are the default choice that the group of research funders behind Plan S have identified as the best way to achieve immediate Open Access for all research outputs stemming from their funded projects. As stated above, these deals provide a mechanism for institutions and their consortia to provide blanket OA to their researchers by negotiating with publishers a common fee for reading (i.e. the traditional subscription charges) and publishing (i.e. the Open Access publishing fees), usually over a period of several years.

The reason why these agreements are called transformative is that they are expected to be a transitional mechanism that will allow publishers to gradually flip all their titles to fully Gold Open Access (i.e. with no subscription fees anymore and free for everyone to read). Plan S funders have asked publishers to produce plans for evolving the business model for their journals so that there is evidence that the increased charges that institutions are facing as a result of bringing together the read and the publishing fees will contribute to reaching a fully Open Access landscape by 2024.

The procedure recommended by the funders (please see Wellcome Trust guidance) is to include a specific wording in the funding acknowledgements section of the manuscript in which the authors state that they are planning to apply a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to the full-text accepted manuscript once the submission gets accepted by the journal. This wording is enough to allow the deposit of the AAM under no embargo in the institutional system as soon as it gets accepted.

UKRI OA Policy (pdf)

(Item 12, Page 3)

12. For the article to be published under Route 2, submissions must include the following text in the funding acknowledgement section of the manuscript and any cover letter/note accompanying the submission: ‘For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence (where permitted by UKRI, ‘Open Government Licence’ or ‘Creative Commons Attribution No-derivatives (CC BY-ND) licence’ may be stated instead) to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising’

Some publishers are not happy about this RRS and have tried to prevent its inclusion in the updated UKRI policy, since they argue that Plan S is all about promoting Gold Open Access via the implementation of Read & Publish agreements. On the other hand, other publishers have no problem with this mechanism. Whatever the publisher’s position though, when it comes to funders’ requirements, it’s funders and not publishers who have the last word. Funders like the Wellcome Trust have moreover requested their funded researchers to get in contact for support if publishers are reluctant to accept submissions filed under the RRS. 

Please check this University of Cambridge page on the RRS for more information on the publishers' reactions so far.

In that case please contact the Open Access mailbox at so that we can provide specific advice. Please also feel free to contact us for any other question related to this updated Open Access policy by Plan S signatories UKRI and Wellcome Trust.

In principle the policy applies to all UKRI-funded manuscripts, so if a Strathclyde researcher is not the corresponding author for an UKRI- or Wellcome-funded manuscript submitted from 1 Apr 2022, it’s strongly recommended to add the suggested wording above into the acknowledgements section of the manuscript. Co-authors based at UK institutions will understand the reason for this even if they’re not the UKRI or Wellcome grant holders, since the policy update applies UK-wide and research funders have been in contact about it. Co-authors abroad may need to be provided a link to this webpage so that the rationale behind this suggested wording is clarified. 

Yes, the first ones are already scheduled as per the requests received from specific research groups. If you’d like a dissemination session to be arranged for your Department/School/Research Group please drop us a line at the Open Access mailbox.

With the REF2021 submission still fresh, it’s too early to tell. Discussions on the updated deposit policy for the post-2021 REF submission are ongoing at this point, but since there has been a close alignment between the UKRI and the REF Open Access policies in the past, it’s widely expected that the updated Open Access policy for the post-2021 REF will also include this RRS requirement.