Open Access Week 2023: Durham’s Research Publications Policy

While our team will enthusiastically bang the drum for Open Access all year round, Open Access Week provides us with a great platform to highlight the work we do, and the ways in which we’re able to remove barriers to accessing the research being undertaken and published by our academic colleagues. It also always feels like an appropriate moment for us to reflect on what we’ve achieved over the past twelve months, particularly as it feels as though 2023 has been a uniquely busy year; it’s seen us launch our new repository in Worktribe, start using our Safepod in the Bill Bryson Library, and provide an institutional open access fund – all of which helps us in our aim of assisting researchers and readers across the full spectrum of Open Access and academic publishing.

That being said, arguably the most significant development we’ve been involved in over the last year has been the implementation of the University’s Research Publications Policy. Durham’s policy represents part of a much broader – and very welcome – shift in the Open Access and academic publishing landscapes (it was developed in conjunction with the N8 Research Partnership, and we are one of approximately 30 UK HEIs who have either adopted a similar policy, or are in the process of doing so), and also ties in neatly with this year’s Open Access Week theme of ‘Community over Commercialization’, in that it is aimed at supporting the Durham research community publishing openly at no additional cost, rather than underpinning commercial models of Open Access. It also allows authors to share their work under the terms of the University, relevant funding bodies, and the wider research community, rather than those of the publisher. Perhaps most importantly, however, the policy offers a highly effective alternative option (alongside our transitional agreements and the option to publish in a fully Open Access journal) for immediate Open Access, one which can be used by any author, regardless of career stage, discipline, or receipt of funding.

A map showing UK institutions that have adopted (or are in the process of adopting) an institutional rights retention policy

Given that one of the main aims of our team is to make life as easy as possible for researchers while they are publishing their work, the question of what, in practice, this means for authors is a pertinent one. The only additional action that we are encouraging our authors to take is to include a Rights Retention Statement in any manuscripts that are submitted for publication. Not only does this allow you to be up front with publishers about maintaining the intellectual rights to your own research, it allows our team to spot immediately that we’ll be able to share your work in its entirety and without any publisher-imposed embargo as soon as we know it’s been published.

If that sounds straightforward enough, it’s down to work that has gone on behind the scenes to make it so. In addition to working with the other N8 universities and seeking advice from Rights Retention frontrunners such as the Universities of Edinburgh and Cambridge to ensure the policy would be as effective as possible, we compiled a list of over 100 publishers that we subsequently reached out to, to inform them of Durham’s new institutional approach. What feedback we did receive from the publishers we notified has been largely supportive; nevertheless, there has been some broader pushback recently, from the likes of the American Chemical Society, through their introduction of ‘article development charges’ (no, us neither, but you can read a good summary of the situation here). That work continues on a day-to-day basis now, and it involves our team checking all of the recently accepted work we receive to assess its eligibility under the scope of the policy, setting up processes within our new system in Worktribe to ensure we’re making it open access as soon as we possibly can, and continuing our advocacy work with authors to raise awareness of the policy and its benefits. A big moment for us came earlier this year, with the first article we made available through the policy – so congratulations to Dr Liam Norman and Dr Lore Thaler from Psychology for being a part of Durham University Open Research history.

You can find a video detailing the key points of the policy here, but if you want to know more about how it works and the work we’re doing around it, we’re more than happy to talk about it – and you can contact us at

Thanks to Martin Gleghorn, Repository Co-ordinator for this blog post!

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