Open Access Authors Can Now Retain Copyright - ACS Axial | ACS Publications

Open Access Authors Can Now Retain Copyright

Effective January 2021, ACS Publications is instituting a new copyright retention policy to make open-access publishing easier and more attractive for our authors. All authors who publish open access in any ACS journal, either in our hybrid or completely open-access journals, can now retain copyright on their article and receive a Creative Commons CC-BY or CC-BY-NC-ND license.

Sybille Geisenheyner, ACS Publications' Director of Open Science Strategy & Licensing

Sybille Geisenheyner, ACS Publications’ Director of Open Science Strategy & Licensing

This move will encourage open-access publishing in our academic communities and is the most recent step ACS has taken towards deepening our commitment to open science. Sybille Geisenheyner, who joined ACS in 2020 as the Director of Open Science Strategy & Licensing, says this change will support ACS’s academic community by giving authors the options they need to be compliant with their funder mandates. Many funders, including those who have signed onto Plan S, now require that authors retain copyright on their articles and hold a CC-BY license.

“This change helps to accelerate the transition to open-access publishing,” says Geisenheyner. “We’re supporting our authors who need to publish open access, who will now be able to comply with funder requirements while still having the opportunity to publish in a high-quality journal. Authors who publish open access have increased visibility and reusability for their work, and this policy allows us to expand these benefits to an even wider segment of our author community.”

To streamline the overall publishing workflow, ACS has also introduced a new journal publishing agreement (JPA) process, which automatically guides authors to the appropriate form when they sign their publishing agreement. Those authors who publish open access under an ACS Read + Publish Agreement will benefit from the JPA process, with ACS Read + Publish institution affiliations automatically identified. This maximizes the authors’ ability to utilize institutional support to cover their article publishing charges (APCs). At the same time, academic institutions can meet their strategic goals around open science, while concurrently increasing their open-access publishing output.

This change will not impact authors who wish to publish under a traditional subscription-access model. ACS will continue to maintain the version of record (VOR) for all authors who publish in an ACS journal, including those who publish open access and retain the copyright to their work. As authors retain copyright, however, they are also responsible for enforcing that copyright. “I would ask people to get familiar with some essentials of copyright law,” explains Geisenheyner. “If there is any misuse of an open-access article in which the author retains copyright, it will be the author’s responsibility to address it.”

“Open access is strong and growing everywhere, which is why I believe it’s more important than ever that we focus on these strategic decisions to globalize our open-access efforts” – Sybille Geisenheyner, Director of Open Science Strategy & Licensing, ACS Publications

Around the world, the publication of open-access research is on the rise. Within the entire ACS journals portfolio, open-access article output increased by 40% from 2019 to 2020, with open access article downloads increasing 58% during this same period. This change benefits authors whose funders have recently required them to retain copyright on their articles and publish open access under a CC-BY license. Ultimately it benefits the entire scientific community, as it increases the amount of research available to scientists. That advancement of research helps to fulfill ACS’s core mission of advancing the chemistry enterprise for the benefit of Earth and its people.

Open access has been a growing cause for researchers, as they look to ways to expand the impact of their work among the world’s scientific community. In a recent survey of ACS authors and researchers, 46% indicate it is “extremely” or “moderately important” to publish their next article open access, while 66% place the same level of importance on publishing open access in the next five years. For those authors who want to be advocates of open science, holding the copyright to their work is an excellent way to show their support. This change also raises a researcher’s profile, as increased availability of their publications can lead to increased knowledge of their scientific contributions

“I’ve spent much of my career working to implement different open-access strategies. The way we are approaching open access at ACS is the right way to do it,” says Geisenheyner. “We’re changing our policies in support of open-access publishing, expanding our portfolio of pure open-access journals, and have a fundamental advantage as a founding member of ChemRxiv. Open access is strong and growing everywhere, which is why I believe it’s more important than ever that we focus on these strategic decisions to globalize our open-access efforts.”

Learn more about ACS’s commitment to open science and open-access publishing at our resource center, If authors have any questions about how this policy change may impact them, they should reach out to ACS Support Services at

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