The findings from publicly-funded research should be accessible to all

A close up hand of a woman at the library, she is searching books on the bookshelf and picking out a textbook.

Ahead of UKRI’s new open access policy coming into effect from 1 April 2022, David Sweeney outlines its purpose and the implications for research organisations.

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) new open access policy is based on one simple principle, that findings from publicly-funded research should be accessible to all. The policy was published in August 2021 and comes into effect on 1 April.

As the UK research and development roadmap says, ‘open publication will ensure that UK research is cited and built on all over the world’.

Building on the Finch review

UKRI wants now to ensure full and immediate access on publication to all the research outputs from our grants. And, building on the Finch review proposals in 2012, to provide routes for authors, institutions and publishers to achieve that end.

After wide-reaching and measured consultation we are setting that key requirement for journal articles, while addressing other issues including:

  • constraining costs (and increasing our funding to pay our way)
  • supporting multiple routes for both publishers and authors
  • aligning with other key funders such as Wellcome and the European Commission to simplify publishing for our authors.

Without preempting future decisions on research assessment, our funding body colleagues have committed to being no stricter on open access than the UKRI policy, again simplifying choices for authors.

This is a reset, but one that follows on naturally and very simply from Finch as we abolish embargoes and target the use of UKRI funds to avoid increased costs. In essence, it is as simple as no embargoes, no hybrid payments.

Bringing monographs into scope

We are going further, bringing monographs into scope, but in a measured way, which will be influenced by further stakeholder discussions on the details of implementation. With a further commitment from funding bodies that no Research Excellence Framework policy changes on monographs will be retrospectively applied.

In taking this forward, we were determined to allow the widest range of journals to which UKRI funded authors could submit outputs. Provided that those publishers make the material freely available to readers.

So we have allowed, in a permissive way, routes that any publisher can choose to allow acceptance of our grant funded outputs. We welcome publication in subscription print journals such as Science, provided that author accepted manuscripts are freely available.

We are willing to pay our way as part of the implementation of so-called transitional agreements in the UK which provide open access without author payment.

We are also willing to pay our way where article processing charges are in place. Though not where the cost of editing, peer review and dissemination is already covered by journal subscribers.

Put simply, where a publisher wants to publish outputs from UKRI-funded work we have made available an open access route to publish that material.

A new tool

We will shortly have a tool available that advises authors where and how open-access publication is being supported by publishers. Including advice when publishers are willing to say they will unlock author-accepted manuscripts in subscription journals.

We will communicate to you what the publishers tell us. By working with Jisc, as agents of universities and research organisations, we are helping publishers who are not yet committed to full and immediate open access.

For some this means the development of agreements which will be available to institutions.

For others we will use our UKRI funds (as allocated through institutions in the open access block grant) to support transitions from closed-access subscriptions models to new open-access models.

The policy is simple, but the complexity of the scholarly publication system means that some of the detail is challenging and we have therefore set out our accompanying material.

However, we will support authors to ensure the fruits of our research is freely and immediately available in all parts of the world. This is with Jisc’s support and tremendous help from the librarians and open access leads across our universities and research organisations.

What should you do next?

As an author, what should you do next? UKRI and Jisc are working with librarians and research managers so that the advice you get comes from your librarian or research office who you can approach directly.

We will provide them with the necessary information so that they can customise for your particular situation. We recognise that research organisations make different choices about how they support their researchers, and you need to seek the advice that is right for you.

In some ways this is just a small step for mankind. Dispensing with embargoes and declining to pay twice for the same material, is not a revolution.

However to bring together the wide range of stakeholders and reach this point has been a considerable challenge. One that we could not have navigated without tremendous support from so many partners, including:

  • researchers
  • research organisations
  • publishers
  • other funders.

We look forward to continuing to work with such a wonderful group of people to achieve this shared vision. Then to think further about even bigger issues around open science and research culture.

Find out more about UKRI’s open access policy.

Top image:  Credit: demaerre, iStock, Getty Images

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