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The University of St Andrews enables researchers to use the rights retained in their scholarly works


In 2008 Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences voted unanimously to adopt a ground-breaking open access policy. Since then, over 70 other institutions, including other Harvard faculties, Stanford and MIT, have adopted similar policies based on the Harvard model. In Europe, such institutional policies have, so far, been slow to get off the ground.

We are beginning to see that situation change.

The University of St Andrews has launched a new Open Access Policy, in effect from 1 February 2023, which harmonises the requirements from research funders, provides greater support to their researchers and aligns with the University’s strategy to “make their research findings widely available for local, national, and global benefit”. In the following interview, Kyle Brady, Scholarly Communications Manager at the University of St Andrews, describes the process which led to the new OA policy, highlights the benefits for the university and its researchers and shares practical tips for other institutions that might consider adopting similar policies towards making all publications openly available as quickly as possible.

 cOAlition S: How did the idea of adopting an institutional OA policy emerge? Can you describe your approach at the University of St Andrews?

Kyle Brady: The University of St Andrews first introduced institutional open access requirements back in 2013. At that time, the focus was largely to support researchers to meet the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and funders’ OA requirements. We also wanted to reflect our own commitment to open access, especially Green OA, which has been embedded as a preference in our OA Policy since its inception. Those main drivers have remained in place, but the landscape has changed a lot in 10 years, so we needed to ensure we could support researchers in the new OA environment – where researchers are increasingly required to retain rights and where monographs and chapters are also expected to be OA.

Therefore, St Andrews’ new open access policy states that all St Andrews researchers must deposit their accepted manuscripts in the university’s research information system Pure, to be made available via the University repository with a CC BY licence and zero embargo. Researchers are further required to include a ‘Rights Retention’ statement on submissions to ensure they retain rights to reuse their manuscript in alignment with the policy. We also included requirements for monographs and chapters, where there is a research funder mandate for open access to these output types. Currently, this applies to Wellcome Trust and Horizon Europe, and will include UKRI-funded monographs and chapters from January 2024. Once the next UK REF requirements are announced, we are well-positioned to extend the scope of our monographs and chapters policy, meaning it will apply broadly across all researchers.

The OA policy was developed in two main phases. Firstly, we wanted to ensure the new requirements had a strong and enduring foundation within the University’s Intellectual Property policy. The University’s IP policy was amended in 2021 and now sets out the principle of retained author rights, aiming to rebalance ownership and rights in scholarly works to enable wider dissemination and reuse. The second phase was to develop a revised OA policy with the practical processes and details required for researchers to apply these rights, fully supported by their institution.

cOAlition S: What are the advantages of adopting the policy for your researchers and your institution? What did you hope to achieve?

Kyle Brady: I’ve included below a handy graphic that summarises some of the key advantages of our new OA policy: 

St Andrews OA policy
Figure 1. Key advantages of the new St Andrews OA policy

We also made a great effort to ensure that our goals were transparent. We wanted to make sure our researchers were fully supported, so if, for instance, a publisher were to push back on areas of Rights Retention and research funders’ support fell short, our researchers would feel reassured that there is institutional support available. Following this, the secondary goal was to bridge gaps and creates a shared journey (see fig 2), for instance, between STEM disciplines (where there may be proportionally higher levels of UKRI and Wellcome Trust supported researchers) and AHSS (where there may be fewer researchers with research funding that includes an Open Access mandate). With a common journey for our researchers, we can provide better advice and support, reducing the advocacy and training burden for the Open Research team while at the same time simplifying the ‘policy stack’ for researchers.

We wanted to make sure our researchers were fully supported, so if, for instance, a publisher were to push back on areas of Rights Retention and research funders’ support fell short, our researchers would feel reassured that there is institutional support available.

St Andrews OA policy
Figure 2. Demonstrating the unified user journey

cOAlition S: How was the agreement reached across the institution?

Kyle Brady: From the outset, we were committed to gathering feedback from across the University to ensure that the new requirements were inclusive of multiple points of view and reflective of concerns. It needed to be a collaborative project to bring our community along with us. Therefore, the University of St Andrews’ academic community was consulted widely during 2022, and that feedback was incorporated in the final draft and fed into frequently asked questions. The most common feedback was for clarification and guidance within the policy, so the document became quite detailed. The feedback also led to the development of our Rights Retention webpage, where we guide researchers through the process of retaining their rights when publishing. We also collaborated with legal and copyright experts and external colleagues, ensuring we learned from our peers and that our path aligned with other UK HEIs generally – specifically, we were thankful to the University of Edinburgh for their advice while developing our policy.

Looking back over the 12 months or so of development, there was very little disagreement about the big picture. There were many valid concerns raised, of course, but by and large, the academic community was behind the changes, and we all shared the same overall vision for the direction of Open Research at the University.

cOAlition S: In conclusion, what are your three top tips for any other university considering adopting a similar permissions-based Open Access policy to yours?

Kyle Brady: A further reflection, and something I have discovered over the years, is that when embedding change like this, we must respect that most researchers’ time and resources are very limited. This means when ‘on-boarding’, we focus on the practicalities and immediate benefits for the individual and always ensure we are reducing their admin to a minimum.

If I had to choose three top tips from our experience, it would be these, in no particular order:

  • Collaborate with your communities – inside and outside your institution
  • Build-in flexibility so that the policy can adapt to changes
  • Focus on the practical benefits to individuals to build trust and bring others along with you.

Kyle Brady

Kyle is the Scholarly Communications Manager at the University of St Andrews, where he manages the open access team, the open access enquiry service, the publications side of the Research Repository, and the University's journal hosting platform (OJS). Kyle also helps to develop the Open Access policies and procedures that shape the Open Research culture of the University.