Nature Publishing Group (NPG), a prestigious journal publisher for the Environmental, Life, and Physical sciences, has been receiving attention for language included in the publishing contracts they require authors to sign once a research paper has been accepted. Kevin Smith, the director of the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication at Duke University, noticed that, in addition signing away the economic rights to their articles, authors are asked to waive their “moral rights” to their work. From the license:
“The Author(s) hereby waive or agree not to assert (where such waiver is not possible at law) any and all moral rights they may now or in the future hold in connection with the Contribution and the supplementary Information.” [NPG License to Publish, Clause 7]
Mr. Smith argues that this clause threatens the core scholarly principle of an author to be attributed to her work. NPG has responded to this by clarifying their reasoning for the clause: “The “moral rights” language included in our license to publish is there to ensure that the journal and its publisher are free to publish formal corrections or retractions of articles where the integrity of the scientific record may be compromised by the disagreement of authors.” While retractions are not uncommon in scientific literature, it is unclear why licenses to publish do not explicitly assert a right to correct or remove fraudulent or erroneous research findings.
As the creator of an original work, you have the right to make sure that your publishing agreements reflect your best interests. For assistance with publishing agreements, contact your department’s librarian or read more about retaining your Author’s Rights.