Publishing research outputs

Outputs of research, such as data and publications, are protected by copyright under UK law.

Who owns copyright in my research?

Under UK law, unless there is an agreement to the contrary, an employer is the first owner of copyright in material created at work by an employee. However, in common with most UK universities, the University of Nottingham does not assert this right in relation to research outputs. Copyright is retained by the researcher, who is then free to enter into a commercial publishing contract as they see fit.

More information on the University's policy towards copyright in staff research outputs can be found in the University of Nottingham Copyright Policy.

If a research publication arises from a course of study e.g. a thesis, then the student is generally the first owner of the copyright (unless there is a prior agreement to the contrary, such as sponsorship agreement with an external company).

More information on the University's policy toward copyright in student research outputs may be found in: Intellectual Property Rights for Students and Graduates at the University of Nottingham.

What happens to the copyright when I publish my research?

Publishing means "to make accessible to the public".

In an academic context, this has traditionally meant publishing journal articles or books via an established, often commercial publisher. Publication then depends on the author agreeing to a contract that customarily, among other terms, transfers their copyright to the publisher. The advent of other online publishing avenues, such as self-publishing and open access, has so far done little to dent the appeal of these established arrangements.

What about Open Access?

Many funders and institutions, including the University of Nottingham, mandate that researchers now publish in a way that makes work free to read at point of use (i.e. open access). In some circumstances, it is also required that a specific reuse licence is associated with publications.

Both open access and publishing licences are predicated on copyright laws. Copyright is key to achieving open access via the "green" route (self archiving by an author in a repository, such as Nottingham Research Repository). As a copyright holder, a publisher is entitled to define conditions around self-archiving: which version may be archived, for example, or must an embargo period by applied. To check the conditions attached to a particular journal, check the SHERPA RoMEO tool.

In addition to understanding publisher and funding policies, it is important to be aware of Creative Commons (CC) licences when publishing your work. Creative Commons offers a suite of licence options that may be associated by a copyright holder with content on the internet in order to permit certain forms of reuse, and block others.

Publishers may offer you a range of Creative Commons licences when you are paying for open access via the "gold" route. You should choose the licence that will comply with your funder's requirements. For example, Research Councils UK (RCUK) states that outputs published on the basis of project they fund must carry a CC BY licence. This very permissive licence maximises the probability of future reuse of your work.

Email for help with open access and Creative Commons licences. 

Visit our Open Access webpages for more information. 


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