Retention of rights for researchers at universities of science & technology and beyond

On 14 July, Simone Rehm (Co-Chair of Task Force Openness of Science & Technology) presented at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) 2022
26th July 2022
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In the afternoon of 14 July as part of the ESOF 2022 session ‘The Rights Retention Strategy: Academic freedom and responsibility for researchers’, our association’s Co-Chair of Task Force Openness of Science & Technology gave a presentation entitled ‘Retention of rights for researchers at universities of science & technology and beyond’. The speech is included below.

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“Dear colleagues, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today as the Vice Rector for Information Technology at University of Stuttgart, and Co-Chair of CESAER Task Force Openness of Science & Technology.

One of the key themes of our task force is open science, and our association has been an active promoter of open science in general, and open access in particular, for many years.

But first allow me to spend a minute or so to give an overview of CESAER to understand a bit more where we are coming from.

CESAER is a non-profit founded over 30 years ago.

We have 57 Member universities in Europe and beyond.

Both technical universities and comprehensive universities with a strong focus on science & technology.

We are an acknowledged stakeholder organisation working closely with many EU institutions, notably the European Commission, Parliament and Council.

Our Members together have over 1 million students and almost 100,000 academic staff.

Together we have many thousands of EU-funded projects.

And we have been awarded billions of Euros worth of European research funding.

So with that as our context, we have over the years developed a strong position promoting open science.

This includes rights retention which is of course our topic today.

I will touch upon what our association has done in relation to three key players in this area: governments, publishers and universities themselves.

In the end, I will conclude with next steps as I see it for our community, which I look forward to discussing with you here today.

For governments we had a clear position in 2020 when the rules for Horizon Europe were being developed.

You can see three key messages on the screen here.

We welcomed the ongoing efforts across Europe around copyright laws with open access amendments.

We strongly encouraged their further deployment by EU member states.

We called for EU legislation to give researchers the non-waivable legal right to share publicly funded and peer-reviewed research findings without embargoes.

The positive of an EU-level legal solution would be that this would ‘solve the problem’ for everyone directly.

Publishers, researchers and their universities would not need to act further if it was clarified on the legal level that researchers have a non-waivable legal right.

We could all just focus on research.

However, a key obstacle with this approach is that new legislation takes many years.

So in addition, we also have engaged directly with publishers.

For publishers I want to be clear up-front that there are many excellent and modern publishers out there that for a long time already have been respecting researchers’ rights.

But we also know that for some publishers it is still standard for authors to sign-away their rights as a default step in the publication process

Last year, our association together with our friends in EUA and ScienceEurope therefore published a joint statement where we called upon all publishers to ensure they fully respect researchers’ rights.

The positive side of this approach is that it is a seamless transition for researchers.

We know this from examples already today when researchers engage with those publishers respecting their rights.

So if all publishers followed this path then the problem would indeed be ‘solved’ without any further action needed.

However, the drawback here is that we are now largely out of the ‘awareness-raising phase’.

That is, many of the publishers who have not modernised yet, have made a conscious decision not to do so.

Some publishers may for example think that having researchers sign away rights can help boost sales of their products.

This avenue may therefore be largely ‘stuck’ now.

This takes us to the third player which is ourselves, our universities and our researchers.

Here our association in 2020 warmly welcomed the rights retention strategy from cOAlition S to complement the approaches we have seen in the previous slides.

This is of course the approach that Sally and Johan helped introduce earlier in our session today.

On the screen here you can see two of my colleagues in the CESAER task force underlining important aspects from our view.

For this approach the big benefit is that it is in our own hands.

We can develop these institutional approaches internally and we do not depend on governments or publishers, for example how Harvard University did it together with their faculties.

The challenge here includes the resources needed.

This includes engaging with the broader university researcher and staff community to develop an institutional policy and then get it adopted and implemented internally.

Those of you who have engaged in institutional development – for example to promote (i) sustainability or (ii) equality, diversity and inclusion – in your own university know that while vital, it is a lot of work requiring substantial commitment and resources.

Another drawback are potential legal issues.

For example if a researcher asserts that a publisher cannot force them to sign away their rights based on the rights retention strategy.

If the publisher decides to challenge this, then it may create legal issues that must be handled.

To briefly describe the path that the University of Stuttgart has taken:

·We have adopted an OA policy in which we encourage the researchers to insist on the retention of their rights.

·We offer researchers appropriate advice on how to retain their rights.

·We are pilot user in the DFG project DeepGreen, which aims at providing a technical solution for the allocation and delivery of publisher’s content, based on an agreement between publishers and the DeepGreen project (DeepGreen – DeepGreen ( In this way, authors don’t need to take care of self-archiving their work in institutional repositories themselves.

Let me conclude with my view on the next steps.

First, I think we should continue engaging at all three levels.

We should push for change on the legal level.

We should continue working with the publishing community to ensure as many publishers as possible modernise.

And finally, to advance roll-out of institutional strategies the potential risks can be mitigated by a combination of:

1) sharing good practices and avoiding pitfalls by ‘following trailblazers’ in this area;

2) engaging with the publisher community to minimise risks for legal misunderstandings and problems;

3) ensuring well-resourced open access services at our universities to help inform and guide the discussion in our own communities.

Thank you again for the invitation to speak here today, and to all of you for your attention.

I look forward to discussing and advancing this important area together with all of you.”

More background on our association’s position to the rights retention strategy is available via CESAER welcomes rights retention strategy for researchers from cOAlition S.

For more information please contact our Deputy Secretary General Mattias Björnmalm.

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