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Understanding Open Access

What is Plan S?

A coalition of European funders (COAlition S) launched a set of 10 principles that make up Plan S in 2018 in order to improve the rate of transition towards open access. Signatories include the UKRI, WHO, and the Wellcome Trust, and other organisations whose open access policies align with the aims of Plan S.

Plan S stipulates that all scholarly outputs resulting from Plan S funders must be available as open access immediately on publication. This can be achieved by publishing in open access journals or by making the output available via an institutional repository without embargo.

Funder open access mandates saw an acceleration in the number of outputs being published as open access but this fuelled the rise of hybrid journals, whereby an author will pay a fee to make their article in a subscription journal available as open access via the journal website. The Article Processing Charges (APCs) are making this model unsustainable for universities because the practice of “double dipping” when a journal subscription is paid and then a separate fee to publish in that same journal is charged on top. This is coupled with the common practice of applying embargoes and authors being asked to sign over their copyright. Plan S aims to move authors away from hybrid publishing and encourages the practice of rights retention to enable authors to reuse and build upon their own research in the future.

Rights Retention Strategy (RRS)

The aim of the Rights Retention Strategy (RRS) is to ensure researchers have greater control over the rights to their work, and maximise the re-use of their accepted manuscripts. It was initially implemented by cOAlition S, an international consortium of research funders dedicated to open access for research outputs.


The Rights referred to applies to copyright in author accepted manuscripts of research outputs.

Rights retention refers to the expectation of many research funders, including UKRI and the Wellcome Trust, that author(s) retain ownership of copyright, instead of transferring it to journal publishers.

The strategy also requires that the author accepted manuscript is published immediately under an open licence, which allows other researchers to re-use and build upon the work. Normally this would be the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence (allowing free use by other researchers), although under certain circumstances, where funders allow it as an exception, the Creative Commons Attribution, NoDerivatives (CC BY-ND) licence may be used (which allows the work to be freely shared not altered).

How to use the RRS

When submitting a journal article to a publisher, the following statement should be included in the acknowledgements section of your submitted manuscript and any covering letter accompanying the submission:

'For the purpose of open access the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising'

If a Creative Commons Attribution, NoDerivatives (CC BY-ND) licence is used, this statement should reflect that.


  • Some publishers are reluctant to allow authors to retain copyright of their manscript and a Creative Commons licence to be applied, but may allow it if you explain that it is a condition of your funder.
  • To avoid contravening your funders' requirements, you should not sign an agreement that requires copyright to be transferred to the publisher, or prevents a Creative Commons licence being used.


cOAlition S (n.d.) Plan S Rights Retention Strategy. Available at: (Accessed: 23 January 2023) - an explanation of the RRS from the funders that are part of cOAlition S.

Rumsey, S. (2022) Reviewing the rights retentions strategy - a pathway to wider Open Access? Available at:  (Accessed: 23 January 2023) - an account of the RRS and how it has been implemented by institutions.